Thyroid diseases are primarily conditions that affect the amount of thyroid hormones being produced and thyroid cancer, which usually does not affect the level of thyroid hormones. It is estimated that 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, and approximately 60% of those do not know it. Women are more likely than men to have thyroid problems, with 1 in 8 developing thyroid dysfunction during her life.
Examples of thyroid dysfunction include hypothyroidism, in which too little thyroid hormone is produced, and hyperthyroidism, in which too much is produced. Although people may experience symptoms, these can be so vague – like fatigue and weight changes – that many of those affected do not realize that they have an underactive or overactive thyroid. If left untreated, thyroid disorders can lead to other health problems, including heart disease.
Opinions vary on who can benefit from screening and at what age to begin.
- The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reviewed the evidence for and against screening in 2004 and announced it could not determine the balance of benefits and harms of screening asymptomatic adults for thyroid disease.
The American Thyroid Association and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists released clinical practice guidelines in 2012 that recommend the following:
- Screening for hypothyroidism should be considered in patients over the age of 60.
On the other hand, if you have symptoms that might or might not be due to thyroid dysfunction, no matter what your age or sex, a number of organizations recommend testing to rule out thyroid dysfunction as a cause. Talk to your doctor about whether getting tested would be appropriate. As you age and experience what seem to be natural signs of aging, particularly if you are a woman, be alert to the possibility of thyroid problems.
Sources Used in Current Review
Clinical Practice Guidelines for Hypothyroidism in Adults: Co-sponsored by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Thyroid Association. The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and American Thyroid Association Taskforce on Hypothyroidism in Adults. Available online at http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1089/thy.2012.0205 through http://online.liebertpub.com. Accessed November 2012.
Prevalence of Thyroid Cancer Rises Sharply. Medical News Today. Article date 24 December 2009. Available online at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/174787.php through http://www.medicalnewstoday.com. Accessed November 2012.