While up to 20 million Americans have some type of thyroid disease, 60% of them don’t know about their condition. That is why The American Thyroid Association started Thyroid Awareness Month. Every January is dedicated to supporting thyroid research and promoting the prevention, treatment, and cure of thyroid-related diseases including thyroid cancer.
What Is The Thyroid?
The thyroid is a small organ also called the butterfly gland due to its shape (smaller in the center with two wide wings extending around the side of the throat). It is located around your windpipe, in front of the neck. Your thyroid, like other glands all over your body, creates and produces vital hormones that have specific roles in different systems throughout your body. Sometimes this organ may produce too little or too much of the intended hormones, leading to what doctors call thyroid disease. There are a number of thyroid diseases, but the most common are:
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid): This condition occurs when your thyroid gland produces too much thyroxine. It can speed up your body's metabolism, leading to fast or irregular heartbeat and significant weight loss. Treatments for hyperthyroidism include oral radioactive iodine, anti-thyroid medication like methimazole (Tapazole), and propylthiouracil, or surgery (thyroidectomy).
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid):It occurs when your thyroid fails to produce sufficient hormones. If left untreated, an underactive thyroid can cause numerous health problems, such as obesity, joint pain, infertility, and heart disease. This condition is mainly treated through daily use of the synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine (Levo-T, Synthroid, others).
Levothyroxine for Thyroid Disease
Levothyroxine is an oral medication that restores sufficient hormone levels while reversing the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism.
It is possible that your doctor will treat you using levothyroxine for a long time, adjusting the dosage as your body requires. Some tests, including checking your TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), will be conducted in the course of your treatment to determine the right dosage.
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