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Thyroid problems often mistaken for other ills

September 13, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Feel like you're always in a brain fog and you're tired even after a good night's rest? Those could be some of the surprising symptoms of a condition afflicting 30 million Americans, mostly women. Many of the symptoms are often mistaken for something else.

When you're a junior in college, it seems you never have time to rest.

"I'm always a little tired. A college student usually doesn't get enough sleep," says 20-year-old Alexa Liacko, an intern at ABC7 Eyewitness News. She deals with condition that zaps all her energy.

"Having to be exhausted and run down all the time is just not something that I can live with," says Alexa.

Alexa deals with an underactive thyroid. Fifteen-million Americans, mainly women, don't even know this could be the cause of fatigue, depression, difficulty concentrating, unexplained tingling or numbness, feeling hot or cold, brittle hair and weight gain.

Dr. Yvonne Bohn at Good Samaritan Hospital says symptoms of an overactive thyroid can be much easier to spot.

"People have a fast heart rate, they sweat, they're losing weight, they have a really increased appetite," says Bohn.

So what causes your thyroid to go out of whack? Experts say it could be genetics, an autoimmune attack, pregnancy, stress, nutritional deficiencies like lack of iodine, or toxins in the environment. So preventing a thyroid condition is quite difficult.

"Up to 35 percent of women will experience some thyroid dysfunction after 50," says Bohn.

While a bulging or lumpy thyroid is a sign of something wrong, a normal-size gland doesn't mean you're healthy.

Dr. Bohn says the best way to know for sure is to get a blood test to check your hormone levels. And the treatment is simple.

Alexa takes a synthetic thyroid hormone medication daily and says the difference is night and day.

"If you're extra tired, don't be afraid to go to the doctor because it really helped me," said Alexa.

The medication has to be taken for life, and it may need to be adjusted with age.

Dr. Bohn says if you have any of the symptoms, it might be a good idea to get tested just to rule it out.

While thyroid disease mainly afflicts women in their 50s, Dr. Bohn, like Alexa, was diagnosed in her 20s.


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