VA Connecticut Healthcare System
January is National Thyroid Awareness Month
Have you been feeling tired, gaining weight, or feeling depressed? Or have you been losing weight without trying to, feeling jittery, and having trouble sleeping? You may want to talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms to see if you need to get your thyroid checked. Women are up to 5 times more likely than men to have a thyroid condition.
January is National Thyroid Awareness Month, and VA Women’s Health Services wants to make you aware of thyroid conditions – how they can affect your health and when to ask your provider about a thyroid check. A national U.S. healthcare quality survey found that about 13 million women ages 18 years and older received treatment for a thyroid disorder. Among women Veterans using VA healthcare in 2012, 6.6 percent of women ages 18-44 years, 15.2 percent of women ages 45-64 years, and 23.3 percent of women ages 65 years and older had a thyroid condition.
There are two main kinds of thyroid disorders, hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, is caused by the thyroid gland producing more thyroid hormones than the body needs. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
• Weight loss
• Feeling anxious or jittery
• Trouble Sleeping
• Increased sweating
• Feeling hot
• Problems with your period.
Treatment options include anti-thyroid medicines, radioactive iodine, or surgery.
Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, occurs when the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormones. Symptoms appear gradually and include:
• Weight gain, even though you are not eating more food
• Feeling cold
• Fatigue (feeling very tired)
• Hair Loss
• Problems with your period.
Treatment is taking thyroid medication (a pill) daily to provide your body with the right amount of thyroid hormone.
How are thyroid disorders diagnosed?
Thyroid disorders are sometimes hard to diagnose, because symptoms of over-active and under-active thyroid may be similar to those associated with aging, depression, or other life events. If you report symptoms to your provider that could be due to a thyroid condition, your provider will start by taking a complete medical history to learn more about your symptoms, and your family history. Then, your provider will examine the size and shape of your thyroid to see if it is enlarged and if there are any nodules (bumps). Depending on your symptoms and your exam, your provider may order blood tests. Based on your physical exam and the results of your blood tests further testing such as a thyroid ultrasound or thyroid scan might be indicated.
Patricia M. Hayes is the Chief Consultant for Women’s Health Services (WHS) for VA, advocating for and overseeing the delivery of VA health care services for more than 360,000 women Veteran health care users.