By Dr. Peter Kadile

Common complaints that patients come to see me for are fatigue and weight gain. They want to know if their thyroid is functioning properly.  An underactive thyroid can contribute to low energy levels and weight gain, but what about if the thyroid is overactive?

Everybody talks about the thyroid gland, but what is it? What are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism? What are the symptoms?

The thyroid is the small butterfly shaped gland located in the front of your neck. The hormones that the thyroid produces are responsible for many of the body’s metabolic functions. The thyroid is sometimes referred to as “the master gland”.

When the gland is underactive and not producing enough thyroid hormone or not performing optimally, it is hypothyroid. When it is overactive and producing too much thyroid hormone, it is called hyperthyroid.

The symptoms of each condition can vary, but generally, people with hypothyroidism can have:

– fatigue

– sluggishness

– depression

– difficulty concentrating

– weight gain

– dry skin

– thinning hair

– feeling cold

– muscle cramps

– low body temperature

Hyperthyroidism symptoms can be:

– nervousness

– irritability

– increased sweating

– thinning skin

– muscle weakness

– insomnia

– racing heartbeat

– weight loss

A poorly functioning thyroid gland may be caused by an autoimmune disorder, radiation therapy, medications, thyroid nodules, inflammation or a congenital disorder.

If you suspect you have an underactive or overactive thyroid, your doctor can diagnose you with a thorough history and physical exam along with some blood tests. Depending on the cause of a patient’s hypo- or hyper-thyroid, treatment may be as simple as taking prescription medication and being routinely monitored by your physician.

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