Mindy was thrilled when she started losing weight despite a hearty appetite. But now her hair is thinning and her hands feel jittery—something isn’t right.

It was easy for Paul to blame his depression, low libido and constant chill on the winter season—until spring came and his symptoms continued.

Jeanine hasn’t been the same since giving birth six months ago—and insists her fatigue and continued weight gain are more than the baby blues.

Though Mindy, Paul and Jeanine are all experiencing disparate symptoms (that are in fact, related to different medical conditions), the source of their problems is indeed one and the same: the thyroid.

In recognition of Thyroid Awareness Month, let’s take a moment to consider the butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck—and what happens when it glitches.

Small Wonder

According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), the thyroid is responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism and affects critical functions such as energy level and heart rate. Because the gland produces a hormone that impacts literally every cell, tissue and organ, even its slightest malfunction can manifest in more than 300 symptoms that may occur from head to toe, inside and out. And some of the symptoms can be so subtle—or easily attributed to other factors (“I’m gaining weight because I’m not exercising,” “I’m exhausted because I have a newborn”)—that they’re easy to overlook.

Here’s a brief look at just a few thyroid conditions and their associated symptoms, courtesy of the ATA.

Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)

  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Increased perspiration and more frequent bowel movements
  • “Racing” heart and hand tremors
  • Thinning skin and hair
  • Difficulty sleeping and muscle weakness

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)

  • Forgetfulness and depression
  • Feeling cold
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation

Postpartum thyroiditis (occurs 4-8 months post-delivery)

  • Symptoms of hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism or both

When the “Little Gland That Could” Can’t

The ATA reports that an estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Even more surprising than its prevalence and variety? Up to 60% of those with a thyroid issue are unaware of it. And when this particular gland isn’t working right over a long period of time, more serious conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, infertility and miscarriage, could follow.

Awareness Matters

If you’ve been experiencing any of the symptoms described above, or you’ve just been feeling “off” for a while, it’s well-worth having your thyroid checked.

Schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor or chat with a 98point6 physician. They’ll discuss your family and personal history, assess your current symptoms and possibly recommend some specific blood tests.

Then What?

Most thyroid conditions, while chronic and lifelong, are easy for doctors to diagnose and can be effectively managed. That’s why it’s important to be honest with yourself and your doctor about any discomfort you may feel. Being proactive about any recent changes and open with your physician are key to catching a potential thyroid culprit. Not sure how to get started? Connect with a 98point6 physician who can offer guidance.

Pass It On

Now that you’re more aware—share! Post this article to your social media feed or forward to friends and family who may be at higher risk. This includes women, people over age 60 and expectant and/or new mothers, according to The National Institutes of Health.