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The Thyroid-Your Little Engine That Does

The thyroid may be only a small gland in your lower neck area, but it has a huge impact on your health.

January is Thyroid Awareness Month, which calls attention to the various health problems connected to the thyroid, symptoms, importance of diagnosis, and treatment options, as well as the many day-to-day issues that may arise from thyroid problems. Before we discuss the various diseases that can arise with this important gland, let’s have a good understanding of what it is and what it does for our bodies.

What Is the Thyroid and What Does It Do?

The thyroid is a gland in the neck in charge of your metabolism and creating new proteins. The gland is part of the endocrine system, which directly affects almost every single organ. It is responsible for regulating skin integrity, menstrual cycles, calcium levels, and the nervous system, heart and cholesterol levels. In addition, it controls brain development, your body temperature, respiration, metabolism and fat production.

Types of Thyroid Diseases

According to the American Thyroid Association, 1 in 10 people suffer from a thyroid disorder, and at least 1 in 8 women will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime. Additionally, more than half of the people in America that suffer from a thyroid disorder that goes undiagnosed. Raising awareness about the thyroid is important because it plays a significant role in the human body.


Also known as overactive thyroid disease, this condition occurs when your thyroid gland produces excess levels of the thyroid hormone thyroxine and can result in weight loss and an irregular heartbeat.


Having an under-active thyroid occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Hypothyroidism’s deficiency of thyroid hormones can disrupt things such as heart rate, body temperature, and all aspects of metabolism.

Hashimoto’s Disease

Hashimoto’s disease is also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis. It’s the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States, and occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and slowly destroys the thyroid gland and its ability to produce hormones.

Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer begins when the cells grow and multiply rapidly. These cells form a tumor and the abnormal cells can spread throughout the body. Unfortunately, there are no early symptoms. However, as the cells grow, they may cause a lump in the neck, swollen lymph glands, voice changes, and difficulty swallowing. Most cases of thyroid cancer can be cured with surgery to remove most or all of the thyroid.

How to do a Thyroid Self Check at Home

1. Prepare to Do a Thyroid Neck Check

Stand in front of a mirror so that you can see your neck. Remove any items, such as a scarf, necktie, or jewelry and focus on the lower-front part of your neck.

2. Position Your Neck

Extend your neck back and slightly point your chin toward the ceiling so that you can get a longer view of your neck.

3. Sip Water

With your neck slightly extended back, take a sip of water. Swallowing will help you see the shape of your thyroid gland better.

4. Watch as You Swallow

Here’s what to look for as you’re doing a thyroid swallowing test:

  • Bigger than normal areas (enlargements)
  • Lumps
  • Parts sticking out (protrusions)
  • Parts that look or feel off-center

Doing a thyroid check just one time probably won’t be enough to get a proper look at your thyroid, so you can repeat the steps again.

5. Feel Your Neck

Gently touch the area around your thyroid gland to feel for any parts that are bigger than normal, have bumps, or are sticking out.

6. Talk to Your Provider

After you’ve done a thyroid swallowing test at home, talk to your healthcare provider about what you saw and felt.

If you’re concerned about issues with your thyroid, be sure to schedule an appointment with your physician.

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