January is Thyroid Awareness Month, and if you ask friends, family, and colleagues what they know about their thyroid, chances are they’ll tell you they are pretty sure they have one, but have no clue what it does.
The lack of awareness about the existence of our thyroid gland is alarming since an estimated 15 million Americans currently have undiagnosed thyroid problems.
Ensuring our thyroid gland is healthy and functioning properly is important to our overall well-being.
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located in the base of our neck just below the Adam’s apple and plays a significant role in regulating fundamental body functions such as:
- Heart rate
- Body weight muscle strength
- Menstrual cycles
- Central and peripheral nervous systems
- Body temperature
- Cholesterol levels
Performing a 5-Step Thyroid Neck Check Self-Exam
AACE Thyroid Awareness provides an online step-by-step guide to performing your own thyroid neck check at home.
All you will need is:
- A mirror
- Glass of water
- While looking close up to the mirror, focus on the lower front area of your neck, above the collarbones, and below the voice box (larynx). Your thyroid gland is located in this area of your neck.
- While focusing on this area in the mirror, tip your head back.
- Take a drink of water and swallow.
- As you swallow, look at your neck. Check for any bulges or protrusions in this area when you swallow. Reminder: Don’t confuse the Adam’s apple with the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located further down on your neck, closer to the collarbone. You may want to repeat this process several times.
- If you do see any bulges or protrusions in this area, see your physician. You may have an enlarged thyroid gland or a thyroid nodule that should be checked to determine whether further evaluation is needed.
For additional information on how to take a thyroid neck self-exam at home, click here.
5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor & Pharmacist about Your Thyroid Health
What to ask your Doctor:
- Where is my thyroid, and what does it do?
- What is the difference between hypothyroid and hyperthyroid and what symptoms should I be watching out for?
- What is Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), and what should my target number be?
- What else besides TSH levels are important for making sure my thyroid condition is regulated?
- What are more and more people being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and should I be checked for it?
What to ask your pharmacist:
- What is the difference between a generic thyroid pill and a brand name thyroid hormone pill?
- Will you notify me before switching my thyroid medicine from the brand name I normally use to a generic?
- What time of day is best to take my thyroid hormone pill?
- May I take my thyroid medication with food, other medications, vitamins, or supplements?
- Can any of my other medications affect my thyroid?