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Low Energy and Unexplained Weight Gain Could Mean a Thyroid Imbalance

November 06, 2012

Washington Women's Center Class Focuses on Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

If you feel tired all the time it could be more than just your busy schedule. Constant fatigue could mean your thyroid is not working properly. The thyroid regulates the metabolism and when there is an imbalance, it can affect your entire system.

"Tiredness and unexplained weight gain are signs that you could have a thyroid imbalance," said Dr. Aruna Chakravorty, a local endocrinologist and member of the Washington Hospital medical staff. "Women are more prone to thyroid problems than men."

She will present "Women and Thyroid Hormone Imbalance" on Wednesday, November 14, from 7 to 8 p.m. The free class will be held in the Women's Center Conference Room, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. You can register online at www.whhs.com or call (510) 608-1301 for more information.

Chakravorty will explain how the thyroid works. The thyroid is a small gland located in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that regulate your metabolism.

The thyroid is controlled by the pituitary gland, located in the brain, which releases a chemical that signals the thyroid gland to produce the hormone. To prevent the overproduction, the pituitary gland senses how much is in the blood and adjusts the production of these hormones as needed, Chakravorty explained. When this system doesn't work properly, either too much or too little of the hormone is produced, causing an imbalance.

Hypothyroidism vs. Hyperthyroidism

When the thyroid does not produce enough of the hormone, it is called hypothyroidism. The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism and their severity can vary. They include:
* Fatigue and weakness
* Sensitivity to cold
* Muscle aches and cramps
* Constipation
* Unexplained weight gain or difficulty losing weight
* Poor appetite
* Dry or rough skin
* Coarse hair or hair loss
* Irregular or heavy menstrual periods
* Depression
* Memory loss
* Slowed thinking and mental activity

According to Chakravorty, the most common cause of hypothyroidism is an inherited condition called Hashimoto's thyroiditis. It is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks its own thyroid gland. This causes a thyroid enlargement or goiter, which affects hormone production, she explained.

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid makes too much of the hormone. Symptoms include:
* Nervousness and irritability
* Palpitations
* Heat intolerance and increased sweating
* Weight loss or gain
* Increased appetite
* Frequent bowel movements or diarrhea
* Shortness of breath with exertion
* Decreased menstrual flow
* Impaired fertility
* Sleep disturbances and insomnia
* Changes in vision

A common cause of hyperthyroidism is over activity of the thyroid gland. Antibodies in the blood cause the thyroid to grow and produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormone, Chakravorty explained.

"If you have persistent symptoms of either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, you should consult your physician," she said. "A simple blood test can determine if you have a thyroid imbalance. Thyroid problems can occur at any age."

Thyroid Imbalances and Pregnancy

Thyroid imbalances can cause problems during pregnancy, which Chakravorty will discuss. Undiagnosed hypothyroidism can affect the growth of the fetus and increase the risk of stillbirth. It also increases the chance the mother may experience complications during her pregnancy. Untreated hyperthyroidism can also cause complications for the mother and fetus, she said.

"Thyroid problems can cause miscarriages and other problems," she added. "Your thyroid levels should be in a good range before you get pregnant."

Chakravorty will also talk about treatment options for thyroid problems, including the range of medications available today, which can reduce hormone production or replace it. Treating hyperthyroidism involves suppressing the production of thyroid hormone while hypothyroidism requires hormone replacement.

"I encourage every woman to attend this class," she said. "Thyroid imbalances can cause serious problems if left untreated."

For more information about other classes offered at Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com. To learn more about the Washington Women's Center, visit www.whhs.com/womenscenter.

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