Mythbusters - Thyroid Awareness Month

January is National Thyroid Awareness Month - which calls attention to the various health problems connected to the thyroid. According to the American Thyroid Association, approximately 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid condition.

Most of us are familiar with the thyroid gland and how it functions. (For general information about the thyroid gland and thyroid-related conditions, read our blog here.) Many of us might think we know all there is to know about the various conditions, symptoms, and treatments associated with thyroid disease, but on closer inspection, it's possible we may not realize the full importance of the thyroid or that we may have symptoms of this disease. In fact, nearly 60% of those with a thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.

There several types of thyroid disorders that can affect a person in their lifetime like hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer, goiter, etc. These diseases have various misinformation and myths related to them. The purpose of this blog is to bust these myths and misconceptions so that you are aware of the actual facts and information. Let's get the top 5 most common thyroid myths busted:

Myth #1: Symptoms of Thyroid Problems are Easy to Identify

Many people have misconceptions that the symptoms of are quite noticeable if you are suffering from any thyroid problems, therefore making it easy to know if something is wrong with your thyroid. According to doctors at Cleveland Clinic, the symptoms of thyroid disorders can be subtle — and overlapping. It can be challenging for doctors to diagnose thyroid-related problems, due to the symptoms being common to other health issues. The most common symptoms, such as irritability, mood changes, weight gain (or sudden weight loss) and fatigue are not always taken into consideration until a patient is screened or tested for thyroid disease.

Myth #2: A Thyroid Nodule Means it is Goiter or Thyroid Cancer

According to Johns Hopskins Medicine, thyroid nodules are the most commonly occurring nodule in the throat, but there are many other glands and organs that can develop cysts or nodules in the throat as well.

In actuality, less than 5% of these nodules ever develop into thyroid cancer. Therefore, it is advisable not to panic and let your doctor diagnose the nodules with a blood test or biopsy to verify the underlying cause.

Myth #3: Thyroid Disease Requires Iodine Supplements

There is another common myth that people suffering from iodine deficiency are at higher risk for thyroid diseases as well. While it is true that iodine deficiency is the leading cause of thyroid problems, taking large quantities of iodine is not the solution. In fact, iodine overdose may lead to an overactive thyroid, which comes with its own set of health complications. Again — do not make any decision for yourself regarding treatment. Consult your doctor before taking any supplements or making any dietary changes.

Myth #4: People Suffering From Thyroid Problems Have Bulging Eyes

People often confuse other causes of bulging eyes with thyroid disease, mainly because bulging eyes is considered one of the most common symptoms of thyroid disease. According to doctors at Mayo Clinic, other causes of the bulging eyes could be the result of an eye injury or Grave's Disease, which can lead to overproduction of thyroid hormones, glaucoma, eye infections, etc. Ultimately, if you are concerned about bulging eyes and wonder if it might be thyroid-related, schedule an appointment with your doctor or visit an eye specialist.

Myth #5: Fatigue and Weight Gain Means a Thyroid Problem

At times, people who experience sudden weight gain, weight loss or feel too tired to function normally during their daily routine may think that it is due to a thyroid-related condition. According to doctors at Cleveland Clinic, when a patient has these symptoms, he or she is thoroughly examined and asked a variety of questions about lifestyle and medical history prior to making any type of diagnosis. As with many of the other symptoms of thyroid disease, these conditions are also very common for various other diseases and nutrient deficiencies.

As with any medical concerns you may have, communication with your provider is key. When talking to your doctor about symptoms that could indicate thyroid disease or thyroid cancer:

  • Be honest and upfront about your symptoms. Do not feel embarrassed.
  • Write down your questions and concerns and bring them to your appointment.
  • If possible, bring a family member or close friend. Sometimes it helps to have two sets of ears when hearing from your doctor.
  • Take notes so you can look them over at a later time.
  • Learn how to access your records, get test results and a list of your medications. Many of these things can be found electronically.
  • Make sure you have your doctor's contact information and find out the best way to communicate.
  • Remember no question is too small! Your doctor is there to answer all of your questions and make you feel confident and comfortable with the care you will be receiving.

Summit Medical Group is one of the largest primary care organizations in Tennessee, with more than 80 locations in 17 counties across East and Middle Tennessee. If you or a family member is looking for a primary care provider, visit www.summitmedical.com to find a location and a provider near you.