reviewed 6/27/18

Thyroid gland: True or false?

The thyroid gland has important work to do—but what happens when it doesn't work right? This small, butterfly-shaped gland at the front of the neck is a common source of trouble. Test your knowledge about thyroid health.

True or false: The thyroid gland affects every tissue in the body.

True. The thyroid gland produces two hormones that travel through the blood to all tissues of the body. They help regulate things as diverse as digestion, heart rate and body temperature. If the thyroid makes too much hormone (overactive thyroid) or too little hormone (underactive thyroid), these body functions can speed up or slow down, causing a variety of problems. Other names for these thyroid disorders are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.

True or false: An underactive thyroid can cause you to feel run down.

True. Fatigue is one of many possible symptoms. Others depend on whether you have a thyroid that is underactive or overactive. Warning signs can include feeling unusually cold or hot, constipation or diarrhea, gaining or losing weight, dry skin, a low mood, trouble sleeping, and menstrual period changes. If your doctor suspects a thyroid problem, a blood test can help find out.

True or false: Surgery is the main treatment for an underactive thyroid.

False. People with this conditions may take artificial hormones that replace the real hormone their bodies no longer make. These drugs are often taken for life. An overactive thyroid is often treated with medicines that lower hormone levels. In some cases, surgery may be a treatment option for an overactive thyroid.

True or false: Thyroid disorders affect more women than men.

True. Women and other people older than 60 are more likely to develop thyroid disorders than are men and younger adults. Having a family history of thyroid disorders also may raise your risk. However, anyone can be diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. Often, the cause is an autoimmune disorder, such as Hashimoto's or Grave's disease.

True or false: Most thyroid lumps are not cancerous.

True. Lumps (also called nodules) on the thyroid gland are very common. But they're usually harmless. In fact, only about 10 percent of these thyroid nodules turn out to be cancerous. If you do notice a lump, bump or swelling in your neck, ask your doctor to examine it.

Thyroid disorders are common—and treatable. It often takes careful management and monitoring with the help of a specialist. Learn more about thyroid problems and their treatments in our health information library.

Visit the Thyroid health topic center

Sources: American Cancer Society; American College of Physicians; Hormone Health Network; National Institutes of Health

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