- Family history of thyroid disease -- having parents, grandparents, siblings, and children with thyroid problems significantly increases your risk of also having a thyroid problem
- Gender -- women are seven times more likely than men to develop a thyroid problem.
- Age -- the risk of thyroid problems increase with age. By the age of 60, a woman has a one in five chance of having a thyroid problem.
- Hormonal Change -- the post-partum and menopausal periods seem to be times when women are particularly vulnerable to the appearance of thyroid problems.
- Other Autoimmune Diseases -- if you or family members of other autoimmune diseases, like lupus, multiple sclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis, for example, you have an increased risk of thyroid problems.
- Medications -- the medications cordarone/amiodarone and lithium have the potential to create thyroid problems.
Evaluate Your Symptoms -- The next step is to look at your symptoms. Fill out our Hypothyroidism Risk Factors and Symptoms Checklist, or our Hyperthyroidism Risk Factors and Symptoms Checklist. These checklists are handy tools when talking to your doctor.
You can also perform the "Thyroid Self-Check" at home to assess whether you have an enlarged thyroid, lump, or goiter -- another common thyroid disease symptom.
Thyroid Disease Symptoms
Rapid and inappropriate weight gain or loss, despite diet/exercise
Constipation or diarrhea
Feeling extremely cold or hot
Particularly high or low pulse rate
High or very low cholesterol levels
High or low blood pressure
Hair, skin and nail problems, hair loss
Puffiness, swelling in eyes, face, hands, feet
Pains, aches in joints, hands and feet
Carpal-tunnel syndrome, tendonitis
Irregular menstrual cycles
Depression, mood swings
Anxiety, panic attacks
Low sex drive
Hoarse or gravely voice
Neck, throat discomfort, pain, choking feeling
See Your Physician -- If you have any thyroid risk factors, and more than one or two of the thyroid symptoms noted in these checklists, and they've gone on more than a few weeks, you should definitely get your thyroid tested. Bring your Risk Factors and Symptoms Checklist to the doctor for an evaluation, and request a thyroid test. A Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) test is a simple blood test, it's not particularly expensive -- a TSH blood test typically runs from around $30 to $100, depending on the lab where your doctor sends tests.
Understand The Diagnosis and Results -- Be sure that you get the specific diagnosis and numerical results of your thyroid test from your doctor. Then, in addition to your doctor's interpretation, you can use the following resources to help understand what the results mean:
- How To Interpret Your TSH Blood Test Results
- How to Tell If You Are Hypothyroid
- Diagnosis: Hypothyroidism -- Answers to Some Common Questions
- How to Tell If You Are Hyperthyroid
- Frequently Asked Questions on Hyperthyroidism/Graves'
Understand the Drug Treatments-- A good starting point for understanding thyroid drug treatments, whether for hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, is All About Thyroid Drugs. This article discusses natural and synthetic thyroid hormone replacement drugs, and antithyroid medicines.
Don't miss the Thyroid Drugs Database, for in-depth information on the various drugs, their manufacturers, and prescribing information.