By; Adedoyin (Doyin) Adebowale, RPh PHARMD

Your body functions best when in balance. An essential part of that balance begins in a small gland at the base of your neck called the thyroid, where you produce two hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Collectively called the thyroid hormone, these chemical messengers regulate metabolism. And when your thyroid is not functioning as it should, the impact on your life can be severe.

Thyroid disease affects one in 10 Canadians (one in eight women) and refers to any one of several medical conditions that prevent your thyroid from producing the correct amount of thyroid hormone. Produce too much, and your body uses energy too quickly, causing symptoms like rapid heartbeat, unhealthy weight loss, anxiety, tremors, and muscle weakness. That condition is called hyperthyroidism.

When your body fails to produce enough thyroid hormone, called hypothyroidism, you may experience weight gain (or the inability to lose weight), a slow heartbeat, weakness, cognitive sluggishness, and digestive problems.

Some patients will also develop lumps called nodules in their thyroid gland, causing an enlargement (goitre), pain, trouble swallowing, or a rasp in their voice. Most nodules are not serious; however, a small percentage are cancerous and will require treatment.

Although other medical conditions mimic thyroid disease, routine blood tests accurately diagnose the ailment. Most thyroid disorders are treatable with medication protocols to adjust hormone levels; however, surgical intervention is sometimes necessary. Left untreated, thyroid disease can cause permanent damage.

If you have concerns, speak to your doctor, a Yurek pharmacist, or contact the Thyroid Foundation of Canada.