Could It Be…Thyroid Disease?

woman with headacheAlways cold or hot? Heart racing a mile a minute? Whether underactive or overactive, thyroid disease symptoms can make your body feel out of whack. Knowing the symptoms can help your doctor diagnose the problem and get you feeling better fast. Do you know what to look for?

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It’s estimated that 59 million Americans have a thyroid problem, but the majority don’t even know it yet. The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, is the master gland of metabolism. When your thyroid doesn’t function, it can affect every aspect of your health, and in particular, weight, depression and energy levels.

Since undiagnosed thyroid problems can dramatically increase your risk of obesity, heart disease, depression, anxiety, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, infertility and a host of other symptoms and health problems, it’s important that you don’t go undiagnosed.

You don’t need to have all of these symptoms in order to have a thyroid problem, but here are some of the most common signs that you may have a thyroid condition:

1. Muscle and Joint Pains, Carpal Tunnel/Tendonitis Problems.

Aches and pains in your muscles and joints, weakness in the arms and a tendency to develop carpal tunnel in the arms/hands and tarsal tunnel in the legs, can all be symptoms of undiagnosed thyroid problems.

2. Neck Discomfort/Enlargement.

A feeling of swelling in the neck, discomfort with turtlenecks or neckties, a hoarse voice or a visibly enlarged thyroid can all be symptoms of thyroid disease.

3. Hair/Skin Changes.

Hair and skin are particularly vulnerable to thyroid conditions, and in particular, hair loss is frequently associated with thyroid problems. With hypothyroidism, hair frequently becomes brittle, coarse and dry, while breaking off and falling out easily. Skin can become coarse, thick, dry, and scaly. In hypothyroidism, there is often an unusual loss of hair in the outer edge of the eyebrow. With hyperthyroidism, severe hair loss can also occur, and skin can become fragile and thin.

4. Bowel Problems.

Severe or long-term constipation is frequently associated with hypothyroidism, while diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is associated with hyperthyroidism.

5. Menstrual Irregularities and Fertility Problems.

Heavier, more frequent and more painful periods are frequently associated with hypothyroidism, and shorter, lighter or infrequent menstruation can be associated with hyperthyroidism. Infertility can also be associated with undiagnosed thyroid conditions.

6. Cholesterol Issues

High cholesterol, especially when it is not responsive to diet, exercise or cholesterol-lowering medication, can be a sign of undiagnosed hypothyroidism. Unusually low cholesterol levels may be a sign of hyperthyroidism.

7. Depression and Anxiety.

Depression or anxiety — including sudden onset of panic disorder — can be symptoms of thyroid disease. Hypothyroidism is most typically associated with depression, while hyperthyroidism is more commonly associated with anxiety or panic attacks. Depression that does not respond to antidepressants may also be a sign of an undiagnosed thyroid disorder.

8. Weight Changes.

You may be on a low-fat, low-calorie diet with a rigorous exercise program, but are failing to lose or gain any weight. Or you may have joined a diet program or support group, such as Weight Watchers, and you are the only one who isn’t losing any weight. Difficulty losing weight can be a sign of hypothyroidism. You may be losing weight while eating the same amount of food as usual — or even losing while eating more than normal. Unexplained weight changes and issues can be signs of both hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.

9. Fatigue.

Feeling exhausted when you wake up, feeling as if 8 or 10 hours of sleep a night is insufficient or being unable to function all day without a nap can all be signs of thyroid problems. (With hyperthyroidism, you may also have nighttime insomnia that leaves you exhausted during the day.)

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The End Of The Doctor-Patient Relationship?

african american doctor and nurseWas your most recent doctor visit more like a brief encounter with a cab driver, or the cashier who rang up your groceries? If you answered yes, then the word “relationship” as applied to the doctor-patient experience may seem a bit like a misnomer.

Today, the typical time with a doctor is a mere 15 minutes! Because of this, it is important to take responsibility for your own health and demand the care that you deserve—despite the limitations of today’s health care industry. So what can patients do to improve relations with their doctor for optimal health? Here’s how:

Make Appointments Earlier

A doctor’s schedule can be off if there is an emergency. The earlier in the day you make your appointment, the less likely you are to be affected by schedule changes. If your doctor is running late, you should be given an update or estimate of his or her arrival.

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Get to Know Office Staff

It can be frustrating to wait until you speak with your doctor to get simple health care questions. Ask a nurse or other members of your doctor’s patient-care team about routine questions you have.

  1. Provide accurate details about your condition and your medication habits. If you haven’t been taking your medication as prescribed be honest and say why.
  2. You’ll need to decide how much you want to know. Some people want to know the details, while others may not. Be sure to let your doctor know how little or how much information you want to know.
  3. Educate Yourself: Your doctor wants to hear about your conditions and concerns; the more you know about the condition the more effective your conversations.
  4. Come prepared to give your doctor details on what you have been experiencing. Give details on what has been happening to you. When did it begin? Describe how you feel when it happens. Explain how you are handling the situation.
  5. Your doctor welcomes your comments. Being honest and sharing complete information helps your doctor evaluate the effectiveness of your treatment plan. You both have a responsibility for your care.

Before You Say Goodbye

Make sure you know exactly what you are supposed to do next.

  • When are you due back? Are you supposed to call?
  • What routine screenings come up next?
  • Don’t leave the doctor’s office unclear about what happens next. Otherwise, you’ll be making follow-up calls to the office.

Bring a Along Another Set of Ears & Eyes

If you think you might have a hard time remembering or understanding your doctor’s recommendations, bring someone along. And be sure to take notes. Because of patient confidentiality, it may not be appropriate for your companion to ask for confidential information on a follow-up call, unless you give the doctor permission to do so.