What is Thyroid Disease? | Health

Dr.  Mark Harris

J. Mark Harris, MD Medical University of South Carolina

Our thyroid, that tiny organ at the front of our necks, just below our Adam’s apple, plays an important role in how our bodies work.

“The thyroid produces hormones that help with essential metabolic function,” says Dr. J. Mark Harris, FACS, a surgeon from MUSC Health Florence. “These hormones regulate our weight, our heart rate, our blood pressure and our body temperature.”

A malfunction of the thyroid gland known as thyroid disease results in a variety of symptoms, including weight gain or loss, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and blurred vision.

Harris says thyroid disease is very common, with an estimated 20 million people in the United States suffering from some type of thyroid disease. Women are about five to eight times more likely to be diagnosed with thyroid disease than men.

Thyroid disease can be benign or malignant, Harris says. Benign thyroid diseases include hyper- and hypothyroidism, as well as goiter diseases.

Both types can be caused by other diseases that affect the thyroid gland.

“Hyperthyroidism occurs when the body overproduces thyroid hormones, which causes the body to burn excess energy,” says Harris. “Some of the symptoms are weight loss, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, and blurred vision. “Hypothyroidism occurs when the body makes too little of the hormone, which leads to weight gain and fatigue.”

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