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Is Your Thyroid Out of Whack?

Many Cases of Thyroid Disease Go Undiagnosed

     Wendy Clark first suspected some-thing was amiss with her health when she began experiencing a rapid heartbeat and swollen ankles.
     “I’ve always been an active hiker and biker,” says the 55-year-old Oakland physical therapist. “Suddenly, I started exhibiting these puzzling symptoms.”
     Clark scheduled an appointment with her physician, Dr. Amer Budayr, at Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland Medical Center, and soon learned she had Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder that can cause overactivity of the thyroid, a condition known as hyperthyroidism.
     The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck. The thyroid can make either too much hormone (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism). According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, thyroid disease is more common than diabetes or heart disease and affects more than 27 million Americans. Because some early symptoms can be mistaken for signs of anxiety disorders or aging, many cases of thyroid disease go undiagnosed.
     “Thyroid dysfunction causes different symptoms in different people,” Budayr says. “If a patient or their doctor suspects thyroid disease, an accurate diagnosis can be made through a clinical evaluation and a TSH [thyroid stimulating hormone] blood test.”
     After Clark’s diagnosis, Budayr immediately prescribed Tapazole, a medication that manages overactivity of
the thyroid gland.
     “I need to continue taking periodic blood tests to monitor my TSH levels and medication for the rest of my life, but I feel great,” Clark says. “I’m back to taking my dog on long walks, and I feel like my old self again.”
     While there’s not much that can be done to prevent thyroid disease, Budayr says early detection is important.
     The American Thyroid Association recommends that all adults ages 35 and older undergo thyroid testing every five years. Women ages 60 and older and men ages 70 and older should have a TSH test annually. Since women are five times more likely than men to suffer from hypothyroidism (when the gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone), it is also recommended that women get tested before conceiving and again in the first trimester of their pregnancy since undiagnosed thyroid problems can lead to infertility or miscarriage.
     Budayr encourages anyone with a family history of thyroid disease or thyroid disease symptoms to talk with
a doctor.

Keep Your Thyroid in Check

The Thyroid Sourcebook (Sourcebooks, 2008) by M. Sara Rosenthal
Features information on the complications of  hypo- and hyperthyroidism such as depression and weight gain.

Living Well With Hypothyroidism (Harper, 2005) by Mary Shomon
Covers conventional and alternative approaches to treatment.

The American Thyroid Association’s Web site, thyroid.org, offers information, brochures and seminars on thyroid disorders.

Thyroid advocate Mary Shomon holds free teleseminars and offers information on topics such as diet and weight loss
for thyroid patients as well as other health information at thyroid-info.com.


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