8 Myths Concerning Thyroid Disease Debunked

Thyroid Disease Myths About Weight Gain, Weight Loss and Bulging Eyes

Human thyroid cancer, illustration
SEBASTIAN KAULITZKI/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

With respect to thyroid illness, myths and misconceptions abound. Here are 8 of these myths debunked.

Myth 1: Only Older Women Develop Thyroid Problems

While a woman by the age of 60 has a 1 in 5 chance of developing a thyroid problem, they are not the only people who develop thyroid conditions.

Women are vulnerable to thyroid conditions at any age, and in particular, during the postpartum period, and as our hormones begin to change beginning in our late thirties.

Men also develop thyroid conditions, and the symptoms in men don't differ much from women's experiences: weight changes, fatigue, anxiety, depression, loss of sex drive, hair loss--all are common complains of men with thyroid conditions.

Myth 2: Thyroid Disease Is Easy to Diagnose and Easy to Treat

Many people have a difficult time getting diagnosed with thyroid disease, and even when diagnosed, discover that radioactive iodine or antithyroid drugs for hyperthyroidism haven't resolved their symptoms, or receiving that so-called "easy pill a day" treatment for hypothyroidism is leaving them miserable, sick, and still suffering symptoms.
Many innovative practitioners and millions of patients know that thyroid disease is a complex, multi-faceted condition that requires a variety of approaches to diagnose and resolve.

Myth 3: Everyone With Graves' Disease or Hyperthyroidism Will Get Bulging Eyes

"Bulging eyes" are one symptom of thyroid eye disease, also known as Graves' opthamalopathy.

While this condition is more common in Graves' disease and autoimmune hyperthyroidism patients, not everyone who has Graves' will develop the eye-related symptoms. A small percentage of Hashimoto's thyroiditis or autoimmune hypothyroidism patients also develop thyroid eye disease. And, having any thyroid problem is not a prerequisite.

A very small percentage of people with thyroid eye disease have no active form of thyroid disease.

Myth 4: Hypothyroidism Will Cause Only a Weight Gain of Several Pounds

While it's hard to always identify exactly how much weight gain is the direct result of the hypothyroidism, the fact is, the reduced metabolism, reduced energy for exercise, and other metabolic changes can result in weight gains of 20, 30 or 40 pounds or more, for some people, depending on their metabolism and genetics.

Myth 5: Graves' Disease or Hyperthyroidism Always Causes You to Lose Weight

Some people with an overactive thyroid will actually gain weight while they are hyperthyroid.

Myth 6: If You Have a Thyroid Problem, You Will Develop a Goiter (Enlarged Thyroid)

The majority of thyroid patients will not develop a goiter, or enlarged thyroid.

Myth 7: A lump or Nodule in the Thyroid Means You Have Thyroid Cancer

Actually, only 5% of thyroid nodules are cancerous. Various diagnostic procedures can evaluate whether your nodule or lump is one of the rare cancerous lumps.

Myth 8: You Won't Have Hypothyroidism Symptoms Unless Your TSH Is Significantly Elevated

While some less enlightened practitioners believe that there are no symptoms unless TSH is significantly elevated, many patients report significant symptoms at high-normal TSH levels, or at elevated levels in the 6.0 to 10.0 range.

Researchers have also found that not treating even mild or subclinical hypothyroidism in the range under a TSH of 10.0 puts you at risk of a variety of conditions, including heart disease, and high cholesterol.

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