I hear a lot of people mention thyroid problems. What does my thyroid do?
The thyroid gland lies in the lower portion of the front of the neck and its function is to release hormones that regulate metabolism. The thyroid is part of the endocrine system and both the pituatary and hypothalmus glands in the brain play a role in keeping a proper balance in the thyroid hormones that are released. These hormones are often measured with blood tests.
Body Functions the thyroid takes a role in regulating:
Body Temperature • Weight • Heart Rate • Cholesterol • Menstrual Cycles
At times, the thyroid can become either overactive or underactive, which can cause changes in the speed of our metabolism. This may cause symptoms and require medications to correct.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is underactive. This is more common in women over 50. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, fatigue, constipation, dry skin, sensitivity to cold, irregular periods and depression.
An overactive thyroid is known as hyperthyroidism. Symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism can include heart racing, intolerance to heat, anxiety, irregular periods and hyperactivity. If left untreated, hyperthyroidism can lead to thyroid storm, which is a life-threatening condition.
A thyroid that functions properly is essential for a healthy life. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should consult with your health care provider. -Melanie Mooney, MD
How does my thyroid level affect my weight?
Patients often come to my office convinced that they have hypothyroidism. Can you identify with any of these symptoms: weight gain, fatigue, constipation, muscle soreness, depression, dry skin and a puffy face? Of all those symptoms, it’s the weight gain that causes patients to think they have hypothyroidism.
Unfortunately, while it is true that hypothyroidism slows the metabolism and leads to increased body fat, this is rarely the cause of most people’s weight gain. Rather, if there was one condition that affects all of us, it would be age-related muscle loss, which starts in our late 30s or early 40s (called sarcopenia) and leads to a decrease in metabolism and an accumulation of body fat.
In fact, in a study of women over 65, borderline low thyroid function (called subclinical hypothyroidism) compared to normal thyroid function (called euthyroidism) was associated with a weight difference of only one pound and no weight change over time. Treatment of subclinical hypothyroidism was not associated with weight loss.
In addition, overmedicating with thyroid medicine to lose weight can lead to significant health risks, including bone loss/osteoporosis and heart arrhythmias.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS: Put down the pizza and get to the gym. Arghhhh! -Clark Trask, MD
Melanie Mooney, MD, is a board-certified family medicine specialist at Beaufort Memorial Bluffton Primary Care in Westbury Park. A graduate of University of Louisville School of Medicine, she completed her internship and residency at the school’s Glasgow/Barren County Family Medicine. (843) 706-8690
Clark Trask, MD, is a board-certified family medicine specialist with Beaufort Memorial Coastal Care MD in Beaufort. A graduate of Vanderbilt University, he received his medical training at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and completed his residency at Mountain Area Health Education Consortium in Asheville, NC. Earlier this year, Dr. Trask was chosen both “best doctor” in Beaufort by readers of the “Beaufort Gazette” and “favorite physician” by the readers of the “Island News.” (843) 524-3344