Experts Call for Thyroid Screening for Americans Over 35
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Experts Call for Thyroid Screening for Americans Over 35
by Mary J. Shomon

Everyone should receive regular screening for thyroid problems beginning at age 35, according to guidelines, issued this week by the American Thyroid Association (ATA), which were published in the June 12th issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

This is the first formal call for universal screening, and the guidelines stem from recent research findings demonstrating the health risks and increased prevalence of undiagnosed thyroid disease. According to a study published in February of 2000 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, thyroid disease is far more prevalent than previously thought, and among the 20 million people in the U.S. who are thought to have thyroid disease, as many as 13 million may be undiagnosed.

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The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that wraps around the windpipe, behind the "Adam's Apple" area of the neck. The hormones produced by the gland are essential to stimulating metabolism, growth, and the body's capacity to process calories. The most common thyroid problem is an underactive thyroid -- hypothyroidism -- which affects women as much as seven times more often men. The risk of thyroid disease increases with age for both men and women.

The most common thyroid symptoms typically appear over time, and include weight changes, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and hair loss. Because they are non-specific and usually take time to develop, these symptoms are frequently attributed to lack of sleep, post-partum fatigue, inadequate exercise and diet, stress, premenstrual syndrome, menopause, and aging -- leaving many individuals undiagnosed.

Undiagnosed thyroid disease carries with it dangers of elevated cholesterol levels, an increased risk of clogged arteries and heart disease, and ovarian cancer, among other conditions. According to the Archives of Internal Medicine article, regular screening to identify undiagnosed thyroid disease is important because, "if only patients presenting with clearly suggestive symptoms and signs are evaluated, many affected individuals will remain undiagnosed."

Should You Be Screened for Thyroid Disease?

According to the American Thyroid Association, if you are 35 or older, you should have your thyroid tested at least every five years, along with your regular cholesterol screening. A thyroid test is a blood test, known as the "Thyroid Stimulating Hormone" or TSH test. The American Thyroid Association is also recommending the addition of Free T4 and Free T3 profiles as part of the overall thyroid panel, for most accurate results. The ATA feels that this guideline is particular important for women, but the screening is cost-effective for both men and women, because early diagnosis can avoid more costly and debilitating conditions that result from untreated thyroid disease. The ATA also has indicated that those who have thyroid symptoms or risk factors may require more frequent testing than the five year intervals.

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Should everyone over 35 have a thyroid test? Do you possibly have thyroid disease? Talk about it, at the Thyroid Forum and Message Board


If you have symptoms of thyroid disease, you should see a doctor for a complete thyroid panel at any age and at any point -- even if you've had a thyroid test in the last five years. A starting point for anyone who suspects he or she might have thyroid problems is to perform a Thyroid Self-Check. You can find out how to do it here at the site. "How to Perform a Thyroid Self-Check.

Common symptoms to look for include:


THYROID DISEASE SYMPTOMS

Hypothyroidism
Hyperthyroidism
Various Thyroid Problems
fatigue
weight gain
depression
difficulting concentrating
constipation
menstrual problems
feeling cold, esp. hands/feet
fatigue
weight loss
insomnia
anxiety
tremors
fast pulse
diarrhea
neck pain
neck lump
neck swelling/thickness
hoarseness
hair loss
trouble swallowing
muscle/joint pains


To help evaluate whether or not you are at risk for or have symptoms of thyroid disease, our comprehensive checklists can help you assess the situation and review your symptoms with your doctor: And for information on thyroid blood tests, see: FOR MORE INFORMATION:

  • Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 160 No. 11, June 12, 2000, "American Thyroid Association Guidelines for Detection of Thyroid Dysfunction" -- Abstract | Full Text
  • American Thyroid Association
  • About Thyroid Disease Newsletter -- There are new developments happening all the time in the world of health, and even in conventional and alternative thyroid disease treatment. To make sure you don't miss any new information here at the site that might help, I put out a regular About.com Thyroid Newsletter that provides free updates on new features and new information here at the website. It's the best way to keep up with what's new here at the About Thyroid Website. Subscribe at the About Thyroid Site Newsletter Signup page or right here,
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