This is information compiled from a variety of sources.
The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormone, which controls the metabolic rate. Thyroid disorders are very common in the United States with over 20 million people under treatment. Women are more commonly affected, and if they have a personal or family history of autoimmune disease, there is a greater risk of thyroid malfunction (25%).
Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) may cause nervousness, palpitations, heat intolerance and weight loss. It is estimated that there are approximately 1 million patients in the United States suffering from Graves' disease, the most common form of hyperthyroidism. Fifteen percent of these cases are seen in the general population over the age of sixty.
Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is due to an insufficient amount of thyroid hormone. Hashimoto's thyroiditis is the most common cause of an underactive thyroid; symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, difficulty concentrating and depression. At least 10% of women in the United States will have signs of a failing thyroid by the age of fifty. At age 60, 17% of women and 8% of men have signs of a failing thyroid.
Thyroid disease is up to eight times more common in women than in men. At least 8% of women will have thyroid dysfunction following pregnancy. Thyroid dysfunction in the post partum period may play a role in some cases of postpartum depression. Additionally, thyroid disease may contribute to infertility if it is not recognized and treated.
Approximately 5% of the population worldwide have goiter or benign thyroid enlargement. Patients who have had x-ray treatment to the head and neck regions for conditions such as acne, thymus enlargement, recurrent tonsillitis, chronic ear infections and birthmarks are at a greater risk for thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer. Most thyroid nodules are harmless, but some may produce excess thyroid hormone, and others may be cancerous. The incidence of thyroid cancer is increasing faster than any other cancer in the United States. The usual treatment is surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid.