According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, around 27 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, and women are seven times more likely than men to develop a thyroid-related problem. Insane, right? Even crazier to me is that until recently, I didn’t know that I was part of this number (along with celebs like Molly Sims and Gigi Hadid, who have recently opened up about their thyroid-related battles), but with studies citing that a whopping 13 million of those with thyroid disease are unaware of it, I knew I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know everything there was to know about the all-too-common gland disease.
After finally being fed up with a significant weight gain that a bizarre number of spin classes and green juices couldn’t even begin to tip, coupled with difficulty concentrating and constant sluggish state, I decided to visit an endocrinologist and figure out what could be going on. The usual height, weight and blood pressure check was run once I was in the office, but so were multiple blood tests (more on the specific markers to ask for later) once I told my doctor what my symptoms were. About a week later, my blood panels came back and multiple hormone levels were flagged as off, explaining everything I was experiencing. An anti-thyroid medication was prescribed to block the formation of the specific hormones that were irregular, and I began to feel more like myself again within a month.
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Since my initial visit, it’s seemed like lifestyle, beauty and health articles based on hormone imbalances and thyroid issues have skyrocketed and I’m loving it. If the problem is so widespread yet so unknown among those affected, the more information, the better, right? To answer some of the chief questions I had about the “mystery” diagnosis, I reached out to New York endocrinologist and assistant professor of endocrinology, diabetes and bone disease at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Deena Adimoolam, MD, in hopes it would clear some confusion for those curious about the disease.
What it is:
Often referred to as the engine of our bodies because of how it controls all metabolic processes, the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the center of the neck that is responsible for manufacturing hormones to regulate the body’s metabolic processes. When the gland is underactive (known as hypothyroidism), the body is drastically slowed down, and when is overactive and produces too much hormone (known as hyperthyroidism), metabolic functions become too extreme for your body to handle.
What to look out for:
“The most common symptoms of hypothyroidism, one of the most common thyroid diseases, include constant fatigue, difficulty tolerating cold temperatures, weight gain, constipation, dry skin, muscle pains, and menstrual irregularities,” Dr. Adimoolam says. When suffering from hyperthyroidism, common indicators are sudden and rapid weight loss, anxiety, trouble concentrating, insomnia, a fast heartbeat and loose stools.
How it can affect your beauty routine:
According to Dr. Adimoolam, hypothyroidism may lead to very dry skin. “Some women notice very dry skin on the scalp, like dandruff, that their nails are very brittle, or sparse eyebrows due to thyroid diseases.” Luckily, scalp-friendly shampoos, nail-hardening formulas and lash and brow boosters are readily available to help in these arenas. “Those with autoimmune hypothyroidism might also be predisposed to autoimmune skin disorders such as vitiligo (areas where the skin is white in color) and/or alopecia areata (bald patches of hair loss).”
How it’s treated:
“The thyroid is evaluated by physical examination where the doctor will feel the thyroid with their hands to look at its size and consistency. The thyroid is also evaluated with blood work, checking different types of thyroid hormones, including Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH).” Also be sure to ask for a complete thyroid screening when ordering blood work (some will only test for two main hormones, which may not be enough to flag a problem). Popular thyroid markers that should be tested for include T3, T4, Reverse T3 and the two thyroid antibodies: Thyroglobulin Antibodies and Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies.
Treatment varies from observational approaches to synthetic hormones being prescribed to balance out the issue, but it’s crucial to work with your doctor to find out the best course of action for your specific needs. If these symptoms ring a bell with you, don’t be afraid to visit an endocrinologist and ask any questions that might be on your mind to clear the possibility of any thyroid-related issues. You won’t regret it—I know I don’t.