ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — According to the American Thyroid Association, one in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder during their lifetime and more than half of Americans with a thyroid disorder are undiagnosed.
The thyroid is a gland that regulates important functions including breathing, heart rate, and body weight. Sometimes the thyroid doesn’t make the right amount of hormones—it can be overactive or underactive. Symptoms of an overactive thyroid, called hyperthyroidism, may see weight loss and an irregular heartbeat. More typical is an underactive thyroid, hypothyroidism, which can cause unexplained weight gain and non-specific symptoms that can make it hard to recognize.
“Feeling fatigued, tired sleepy, cold, hair loss, dry skin, all of which are symptoms of hypothyroidism but are not specific for it. They could be seen in up to 15% of the normal population without necessarily having any disease,” said Dr. Hassan Shawa, an endocrinologist and associate professor at Albany Medical College. He says thyroid conditions are treatable and can be diagnosed through blood tests. But Dr. Shawa warns those who take the hair and nail supplement, Biotin, to stop taking it several days prior to getting labs done because it can interfere with the results.
If you’re a woman over 60, have diabetes, or a family history of thyroid disease, you’re more likely to develop it. Underactive thyroid can make losing weight a challenge, but proper treatment, along with diet and lifestyle strategies can help.
Dr. Shawa says it’s a common practice in holistic medicine to start patients on a thyroid hormone even if they have normal lab results. He says taking a thyroid hormone when it’s not needed can be harmful in the long run, causing potentially cardiac arrhythmias and bone loss.