You’ve heard of a thyroid, but do you know just how important that little butterfly-shaped gland is? January is Thyroid Awareness Month, which makes it a great time to learn about what the thyroid does, and how you can identify potential thyroid problems.

What is a thyroid?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located on the neck below the Adam’s apple. The thyroid secretes hormones, which influence many vital body functions including metabolism, menstrual cycles, heart rate, cholesterol levels, and body temperature.

Surprising Symptoms of Thyroid Problems

The thyroid may become overactive (known as hyperthyroidism) or underactive (known as hypothyroidism). There are many possible symptoms of a thyroid that is not working properly—some may be surprising—including:

  • Mood changes including anxiety, irritability, nervousness, or depression
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
  • Trouble sleeping, excessive tiredness or fatigue
  • Dry skin and hair, or hair loss
  • Changes to the menstrual cycle including missed or light periods, or frequent or heavy periods

Your Risk for Thyroid Problems

A thyroid condition can affect men and women of all ages however, there are certain risk factors, which increase your risk including:

  • Being female (women are 5 times more likely to develop a thyroid condition)
  • Being over age 60
  • Having a personal or family history or thyroid problems, or autoimmune disease
  • A recent pregnancy
  • Radiation exposure to the neck

If You Suspect Thyroid Problems

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and decide if additional testing is right for you. Your doctor may recommend an ultrasound or a biopsy procedure to provide additional information about your thyroid function. Raleigh Radiology offers these procedures and more at seven convenient imaging centers in the NC triangle.