The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland in the neck which plays a major role in regulating the body, especially the metabolism. It secretes hormones which regulate many of the body’s functions. Like many glands, the thyroid may settle into a state where it over-secretes, or where it under-secretes. It is useful to learn a little about what the thyroid does, so that you will know what signs and symptoms should prompt you to seek medical evaluation.
Hypothyroid or “Slow” Thyroid
Hypothyroidism is simply when the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormone. It is sometimes labeled as a “slow thyroid” or “slow metabolism” and it can result in weight gain. Fatigue is a definite symptom so if you suspect a sudden lack of energy has been leading to weight fluctuations, it’s a good idea to have your thyroid checked. Some other symptoms include weakness, dry hair and skin, hair loss, muscle cramps, constipation, irritability and memory loss. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, a poorly functioning thyroid gland may be the culprit, so it is important to be evaluated by a medical professional. Fortunately, evaluation is often quite simple and may just involve a physical exam and a few blood tests.
Hyperthyroidism and Weight Loss
Hyperthyroidism is when a patient has an overactive thyroid. There are many possible causes of an overactive thyroid gland. These include hormone secreting nodules and tumors, as well as inflammatory states which cause the thyroid to over-secrete. Patients may notice trouble sleeping, weight loss, tremors, mood swings, and rapid or irregular heartbeats. Some patients may notice that the gland in their neck is enlarged. These signs and symptoms should always be evaluated by a physician. As with hypo-thyroidism, evaluation may simply involve a thorough exam and some blood tests. On occasion, more involved tests may be appropriate, but if you think you are experiencing thyroid-related symptoms, it is important to see a physician at our Plainsboro office so that you can establish a diagnosis.