The thyroid gland can become either underactive or overactive. An underactive thyroid can lead to weight gain, constipation, decreased mental acuity and cold intolerance, among other symptoms. An overactive thyroid gland can lead to weight loss
, tremors and heat intolerance.
Fortunately, disorders of the thyroid gland are relatively easy to diagnose by a combination of blood work and imaging. The Thyroid Stimulating Hormone released by the pituitary gland is usually the first blood test that will be ordered by a physician trying to diagnose a thyroid problem. If this test is abnormal, then the thyroid hormones produced by the actual thyroid gland can be measured. If the thyroid gland is found to be overactive, then an ultrasound scan (sometimes done with iodine uptake) can be done to determine the source of the over-production of the hormones (ie, whether the entire gland is overactive or if there is a discrete nodule that is responsible).
If you have any concerns at all about your thyroid gland, then you should visit your primary care physician
. He or she can conduct a thorough medical history and physical exam and decide if testing is warranted to help diagnose a thyroid disorder.