You Could Have It and Not Even Know….


In the United States, it affects nearly 30 million Americans, and yet more than half of them remain undiagnosed. The disease is more common than diabetes or heart disease, and, if not treated, can severely affect a person's life.

The problem could be staring you in the face…

It's the thyroid gland, and it regulates hormones for virtually every part of the body. The thyroid is a small butterfly shaped gland located at the base of the neck.

Women make up 8 out of 10 patients with thyroid disease, and are 5 to 8 times more likely than men to suffer from what is known as hypothyroidism, or an under-active thyroid. An under-active thyroid can be signaled by fatigue, forgetfulness, depression, mood swings, weight gain, constipation, and a dry, hoarse voice. Conversely, hyperthyroidism is the condition of the thyroid becoming overactive, and it can be indicated by nervousness, irregular heartbeat, increased sweating, intolerance to heat, and unexplained weight loss.

Thyroid disease is a serious condition, but it can be treated. Because the thyroid affects the hormonal balance in the body, problems with thyroidism can severely impact all the organs of the body. Hyper/ hypothyroidism can lead a person to develop other health problems, such as heart disease, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, and depression. Graves' Disease (hyperthyroidism) can be treated without radioactive treatment.

So what can be done? Dr. Simona Scumpia, Medical Director of the Austin Thyroid and Endocrinology Center, explains: "Because the symptoms of thyroidism can be associated with commonly occurring conditions, it is extremely important that people who have the symptoms be checked with a test known as a TSH test. The TSH, Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone test, is a simple blood test that measures the thyroid gland's condition. There will be new guidelines released by the American Thyroid Association on the management of thyroid cancer and thyroid nodules soon."

Since the majority of cases of thyroidism are permanent and often progressive in their nature over time, it can be necessary to receive treatment throughout a person's lifetime. "The good news is that, if detected early, there's no reason why a person with thyroidism can't live a completely normal life," says Eileen G., one of Dr. Scumpia's current patients. "Treatment for my thyroidism has given me my life back."

Simona Scumpia, M.D., FACE, FRCPC, is the founder of the Austin Thyroid and Endocrinology Center in Austin, Texas.

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