Screenings Assess Thyroid Health

It is interesting that, although the thyroid is involved in numerous biological processes, we don’t often talk about the importance of screening this organ. The thyroid gland sits at the based of the front of the neck. The primary function of the thyroid is to produce thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone, in turn, regulates activities such as heart rate and metabolism. If too much or too little thyroid hormone is produced by the small gland in the neck, symptoms such as restlessness, weight gain, irregular heartbeat, or weight loss may occur.

Statistics indicate that 1 in 8 women develop thyroid problems. An over- or under-active thyroid can cause specific problems for women, including:

  • Irregular menstruation. An imbalance in thyroid hormone can affect menstruation in several ways; it may make periods heavy or light. Thyroid disease may cause a woman’s period to start sooner or later than it should, or to stop altogether (amenorrhea) for several months. In some cases, thyroid disease can contribute to early menopause.
  • Difficulty getting pregnant. Due to the challenges that thyroid disease presents to the menstrual cycle, this condition could be an underlying cause of fertility difficulties.
  • Pregnancy challenges. For the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, Mother’s thyroid hormone is delivered to Baby through the placenta. The hormone is involved in proper brain and nervous system development. Untreated thyroid disease during pregnancy increases the risk of low birth weight, preeclampsia, and miscarriage.

Who Should Get a Thyroid Screening?

Currently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force only recommends thyroid screening in certain circumstances:

  • If symptoms of hypo- or hyperthyroidism are occurring.
  • A person has type 1 diabetes, anemia, or a goiter (noticeable enlargement of the thyroid).
  • The thyroid gland has been previously treated with radiotherapy or surgery.
  • Postmenopausal women may obtain periodic screenings due to an increased risk of thyroid disease.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid) include:

  • Weight gain not associated with changes in diet
  • Muscle weakness
  • Feeling cold often
  • Significant fatigue
  • Feelings of sadness or depression
  • A puffy face
  • Heavier menstrual bleeding

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism (over-active) include:

  • Weight loss not associated with dietary changes
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Feeling hot often
  • Increase in bowel movements or diarrhea
  • Lighter or less frequent menstrual periods

We are proud to offer gynecology and family medicine services to the women of Houston. To schedule a well-woman checkup and discuss the benefit of thyroid testing, call 713.955.6560.