Most people know they have a thyroid, but few understand its role in their bodies — until it malfunctions. They then learn that its malfunction can affect you mentally, emotionally and physically, depending on your condition.
Here’s what you need to know about thyroid disorders and how they can disrupt your life and career.
What problems can a thyroid have?
Your thyroid forms part of your neck and is part of your body’s endocrine system. It’s a 2-inch gland that produces many of the hormones necessary to aid with normal bodily functions.
When a thyroid malfunctions, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong. Some may eventually receive a diagnosis of thyroid cancer, thyroiditis, Hashimoto’s Disease, Graves Disease or a toxic multinodular goiter, but hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism
What is hyperthyroidism?
Doctors may diagnose a patient with a hyperthyroid disease if their thyroid produces too few hormones. Patients who suffer from this condition may experience excessive sweating, heat intolerance, increased heart rate or palpitations, muscle weakness or fatigue. Mental health concerns such as anxiety, nervousness and mood swings are also common among hyperthyroidism patients.
Some individuals who suffer from this condition may regulate it by maintaining a good sleep regimen, eating a healthy diet and employing calming coping mechanisms. Some individuals may require medication or even radioactive iodine treatment to kill off bad cells. Surgery to remove the gland may also be necessary.
What is hypothyroidism?
A person with hypothyroid disease has an underperforming thyroid and doesn’t produce enough T3 and T4 hormones. Individuals who suffer from this condition often experience joint pain, a slow heart rate, fatigue and dry skin. They may also start having irregular menstrual cycles, depression, hair loss, unexplained weight gain and infertility issues.
Many patients who have hypothyroidism can take a medication that synthetically produces a thyroid hormone. Some individuals may need to have their thyroid surgically removed if they try medication and radiation and it doesn’t work.
Can thyroid disorders be disabling?
Symptoms and treatment options vary greatly between different patients, but thyroid disease does have the capacity to become disabling. The fatigue and joint paint associated with hypothyroidism, for example, can easily become a barrier to work activity. Similarly, the muscle pain and mood swings associated with an overactive thyroid can be very difficult to manage.
If your thyroid disorder is preventing you from working, it may be time to think about filing for Social Security Disability.