Thyroid 101: What it is & Why You Should Care

Photo by: Ammiel Mendoza, R29
Hypothyroidism: When Your Thyroid Is An Underachiever

Some of the major symptoms of an underactive thyroid is being tired and sluggish (even when you catch enough sleep ... more 
Photo by: Ammiel Mendoza, R29
Hypothyroidism: When Your Thyroid Is An Underachiever

Some of the major symptoms of an underactive thyroid is being tired and sluggish (even when you catch enough sleep and OD on caffeine), as well as forgetfulness, a feeling of 'cloudiness,' gaining weight, losing hair, headaches, feeling colder than usual, excessive dry skin, pain in muscles and joints, and constipation. The problem? Many of these not-feeling-so-hot signals could happen to the best of us when we're having an off week (or month), which can make the presence of this condition hard to diagnose.

"A lot of symptoms, especially in hypothyroidism, are non-specific and could be caused by variety of different things. Especially in January or February if you live in the Northeast...things like feeling tired, slightly depressed, feeling cold and gaining weight are common," says Alan P. Farwell, MD, director of patient education at the American Thyroid Association. "If a few of these symptoms persist f less 
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Wed, Jan 16, 2013 5:32 PM EST
By Nicole Catanese, Designed by Ammiel Mendoza, Refinery29



By now, you may have heard some of the health buzz surrounding your thyroid gland and the ways that it can potentially affect your health. This small gland - really, just the size and shape of a (little) butterfly - found in the base of your neck, plays a big role in your health, as well as how you feel on a daily basis. Here's how it works: your thyroid converts iodine (a substance found in foods items ranging from potatoes to dairy products) into two hormones: T3, which is triiodothyronine, and T4, known as thyroxine.



So, why should you care? "The thyroid secretes these hormones, and then they go directly into the blood, which then affects the entire the body because [the hormones travel all over your system and work into every single cell," says Betul Hatipoglu, MD, an endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. That's right - the thyroid affects everything in your body, head to toe.



The problem: the thyroid doesn't always function perfectly, and thyroid issues are becoming more and more common. An estimated 20 million Americans have some type of thyroid disorder, and one in eight women will develop one in her lifetime, according to the American Thyroid Association. According to Hatipoglu, thyroid issues are very common during menopause, but they can pop up if even you're thirty-something (especially if new to the Pill or pregnant, as an increase in estrogen can throw the thyroid out of whack). A family history of issues with the gland can raise a red flag on how it will behave for you. While the thyroid is most known for its role in metabolism - either making it work double time, leading to weight loss; or more commonly, slacking off and causing weight gain - having your favorite jeans feel a little snug isn't the only sign of a malfunctioning thyroid. Here are some symptoms of a thyroid gone wrong, and exactly what to do about it.



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