It’s often attributed to irritability, fatigue, mood swings and depression. What is it? Here’s a clue: it’s not your spouse. Here’s another clue: it’s not your children. Stumped for the answer?
It’s the thyroid, otherwise known as The Regulator.
The thyroid is often termed as the body’s Head of Management, because it’s an endocrine gland that distributes hormones to the body.
“You will often hear the words T3 and T4 spoken of in reference to the thyroid,” said Heather Simmons, R.N., “T3 and T4 are hormones that the thyroid creates and secretes that affect the body’s metabolism and growth.”
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, right above the middle of the collarbone. It regulates nearly every cell in the body as well as organs and tissues. Additionally, the thyroid is responsible for controlling metabolism levels and energy consumption, body temperature, weight and heart rate.
Experts at the National Institutes of Health draw attention to the fact that millions of Americans have thyroid diseases, which is a main reason why this month just so happens to be Thyroid Awareness Month. Two types of thyroid diseases include hypothyroidism, when the thyroid isn’t active enough, and hyperthyroidism, when the thyroid is overactive and produces an excess of hormones.
“Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid does not produce enough hormones,” Simmons said. Symptoms of this condition include fatigue, weight gain or the inability to lose weight, hoarse voice, intolerance to the cold and oftentimes, difficulty in swallowing.
At the other end of the thyroid spectrum, hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid is overactive and produces too many hormones. Oftentimes, the thyroid can enlarge and be visible to sight due to its overstimulation. Enlarged thyroids, termed as goiters, can also be a symptom of hypothyroidism.
Other signs of an overactive thyroid, as highlighted by The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), can include muscle weakness, weight loss, increased heart rate, intolerance to heat, irritability, and irregular or heavy cycles of menstruation.
Simmons also explains that hyperthyroidism is oftentimes caused by an autoimmune disorder called Graves’ disease. Antibodies, generally produced by the body to protect itself from harmful agents, instead cling to thyroid cells and mistakenly attack the gland.
“With Graves’ disease, the body makes an antibody that attacks the thyroid and makes it over produce the hormones,” Simmons said.
The AACE recommends taking the thyroid “Neck Check” to check for any bulges or protrusions in the thyroid-related area -- simply grab a glass of water and a handheld mirror. To conduct the check, aim the mirror toward the area directly above the middle of the collarbone and tip your head back. Then, take a sip of water and swallow. While you’re swallowing, check for any obtrusions as they may be indicative of thyroid abnormalities.
If you notice any problems, schedule an appointment with your physician to see if treatment or cancer-related biopsies are needed. Simmons additionally emphasizes that a quick trip to the doctor can curtail many of the uncomfortable effects related to thyroid conditions.
“There are many treatments for thyroid disorders ranging from a simple pill a day to surgery,” Simmons said.
In conclusion, pay attention to the body’s signs of irritation and address the situation in hopes of quickly remedying any symptoms associated with the thyroid. What’s at the root of the cause? How can this be made better?
And while your spouse and kids may be contributing factors to your hoarse voice and crazed-like mood swings, your thyroid may in fact be the underlying, mis-regulating cause of it all.