Your thyroid affects you more than you think.
Photo by Erik Asla/Gallery Stock
When Sandra Hebert was eight years old, her family knew something was wrong. “I was lethargic, overweight, had dry scaly skin and my hair was dull and falling out.” This was 1953, and her doctor was stumped. It was her mom’s brother who recognized the signs of hypothyroidism (when the thyroid gland produces too little hormone).
To have your thyroid monitored in the 1950s was a traumatic process, just shy of torture, with barbaric-looking machines and retesting every three months. These days it’s as simple as a blood test, which is good because about 10 percent of Canadians suffer from a thyroid condition, and women are at a much greater risk than men.
Thyroid problems are often hereditary, but like in Hebert’s day, doctors and patients still have trouble recognizing the symptoms. They’re often mistaken as depression, anxiety or stress. But what’s actually happening is that the body is producing either too much or too little of the thyroid hormones — thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) — which help manage moods, weight and energy levels. Patients diagnosed with a malfunctioning thyroid are given medication and are retested regularly to ensure the dosage is aligned with the body’s fluctuating hormones — especially during puberty, pregnancy and menopause. The signs and symptoms for hyper- and hypothyroidisms couldn’t be more different. “I know people with hyper who can’t sit still,” says Herbert, “and people with hypo who can sit still for a long, long time.”
Read on for information on Hypothyroidism >>