Your thyroid is arguably one of the most important parts of your body. As part of the endocrine system, this small gland in your neck secretes thyroid hormone, which is responsible for directing all of your metabolic functions—that means controlling everything from digestion to mood to energy.
When the thyroid malfunctions, it can affect every facet of your health. Unfortunately, thyroid problems are common, especially in women. According to the American Thyroid Association, one in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime. It can happen at any age, but “problems frequently develop in the 20s and 30s, especially in women,” Jason C. Baker, M.D., endocrinologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian, tells SELF.
Although they’re common, up to 60 percent of people with a thyroid disorder don’t know they have one, which is why it’s important to be aware of what these conditions are and how they present themselves.
These are all the most common thyroid disorders and what we know (and don’t know) about the causes of each. If you think you may have one of the conditions below, voice your concerns to your doctor so you can be appropriately screened and get your condition under control.
Hypothyroidism is also referred to as underactive thyroid. In this situation, your thyroid doesn’t make enough of the thyroid hormone, therefore, all of your body’s important processes get slowed down. Weight gain, decreased appetite, fatigue, dry skin, and heavy periods are all hallmark symptoms of hypothyroidism, as your body’s cells are unable to work at their normal level of efficiency.
The most common cause of an underactive thyroid is thyroiditis, swelling of the thyroid gland (see below), according to the National Institutes of Health.