After 40, a new, local magazine for women after the age of 40, recently interviewed Nurse Practitioner Julie Schnieders about women’s thyroid health. In the published interview, posted below, Julie answers questions to help us understand the symptoms of thyroid disease, its effect on weight, and how to tell if your thyroid is functioning properly.
Q: How common is thyroid disease?
A: It’s very common and tends to run in families. It’s more prevalent in women than men. The risk increases with age; however young people can have it. My sister had a thyroid problem, I have one, and my daughter was diagnosed with it at age 25.
Q: Are there different types of thyroid disease?
A: Yes. The most common kind is hypothyroidism, when the thyroid is underactive. Hyperthyroidism, which is Graves’ disease, occurs when the thyroid is overactive.
Q: What symptoms should we be looking for?
A: With hypothyroidism, I look for fatigue. If you’re dragging, if you’ve put on weight, have dry skin, feel cold, or you’re losing your hair. It can be confusing as these are also the sign of menopause. With hyperthyroidism, your heart may race, you may have unexpected weight loss, and you often feel hot.
Q: Could my weight gain be due to a thyroid disorder?
A: Women like to think their weight gain is due to the thyroid, but for most of us, it’s just not true. This symptom isn’t as common as fatigue or dry skin.
Q: What are the treatment options?
A: If you experience symptoms, contact your physician. The evaluation will include both a blood test that measures your thyroid hormone levels and an examination of your thyroid in your neck. If the thyroid feels enlarged or has nodules you may need an ultrasound or possibly a biopsy. Most nodules are benign.
Q: These symptoms are so common, couldn’t they just be a part of getting older?
A: When the thyroid isn’t working properly, it can lead to bone loss or high cholesterol. If you have any symptoms, it warrants a visit to the doctor. It’s a fact that thyroid disease is common and the thyroid should be checked.
Q: If I don’t have symptoms, is a thyroid check necessary?
A: If you have no symptoms and no unexplainable fatigue, I suggest having the thyroid check every three to five years. If there is a family history, be on the lookout for symptoms. Have the thyroid checked by age 35 and even earlier if you experience any symptoms.
Q: Where can I get a thyroid screening?
A: Contact your primary care physician. If you do not have a physician or dont’t have insurance, we offer a free screening anytime. we also do free clinical breast exams. Simply call (317) 338-4HER to schedule an appointment.