“Doctor, I’m tired.” “I don’t have any energy no matter what I do.” “I cannot lose weight no matter how hard I try.”

As a family physician, Dr. Bert Barnes, chief medical officer at Medical Center of Trinity in West Florida, has heard these symptoms more times than he can count. The culprit is one of the most common and sometimes overlooked diagnoses, he says – a thyroid condition.

The thyroid – a butterfly-shaped gland in the base of the neck – may be small, but it packs a powerful punch. It plays a major role in the body, controlling our metabolism and producing hormones that help us use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles and other organs working as they should.

Treatment options for thyroid conditions are usually directed by endocrinologists, says Dr. Barnes. So, to help us get down to brass tacks, a specialist from HCA-affiliate Medical City McKinney, Dr. Muhammad Shaharyar Siddiqui, joined the conversation to discuss 12 things you should know about thyroid health.

  1. Some 20 million Americans suffer from thyroid disease and up to 60 percent of those individuals are silent sufferers, says Dr. Siddiqui. In other words, they are unaware of their condition.
  1. Women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems.
  1. When one has an underactive thyroid – HYPOthyroidism – the gland is not producing enough hormones and metabolism slows down, says Dr. Barnes. The results include extreme fatigue, depression, forgetfulness, cold intolerance, dry skin, weight gain, and hair loss, among other complaints.
  1. Hypothyroidism is very common in patients over 60 years old and steadily increases with age, Dr. Siddiqui added, and, sadly, up to one in four patients in nursing homes may have undiagnosed hypothyroidism.
  1. An underactive thyroid can be easily diagnosed with blood tests.
  1. According to Dr. Siddiqui, hypothyroidism cannot be cured, but, in almost every patient, he says, it can be completely controlled. Treatment consists of thyroid hormone replacement taken once daily by mouth to fully replace the function of the thyroid gland.
  1. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland for no apparent reason, is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. Several Hollywood celebrities have spoken publically about their battle with Hashimoto’s, including Zoe Saldana, Gina Rodriguez and, most recently, Model Gigi Hadid.
  1. Hashimoto’s presents differently from patient to patient. A diagnosis is often made when patients present with symptoms of hypothyroidism, often accompanied by the finding of a goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland) on physical examination, and laboratory tests either indicative of normal thyroid function or consistent with hypothyroidism.
  1. The care plan for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is to treat the hypothyroidism with thyroid hormone replacement medication
  1. A much less common thyroid condition is HYPERthyroidism or overactive thyroid, says Dr. Barnes. Here, the thyroid is producing too much hormone and symptoms may include irritability, weight loss, heat intolerance, vision problems, nervousness and tremors. If left untreated, it can lead to various heart conditions and thinning of the bones, he added.
  1. No single treatment is best for all patients with hyperthyroidism, Dr. Siddiqui said: treatment will be influenced by your age, the type and severity of the hyperthyroidism, other medical conditions that may affect your health and your own preference. Treatment options include antithyroid drugs, radioactive iodine and surgery.
  1. For women, especially, don’t ignore the signs of a potential thyroid condition. If you suspect that something is “off,” consult your physician.

Dr. Bert Barnes, chief medical officer at Medical Center of Trinity, an affiliate of HCA, and Dr. Muhammad Shaharyar Siddiqui, endocrinologist at HCA North Texas’ Medical City McKinney, hopes this blog will draw attention to thyroid conditions and Thyroid Awareness Month.