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Check Your Neck for Thyroid Awareness Month

Thyroid Gland

January 24, 2022
By Lisa Ryan

January is Thyroid Awareness Month! Your thyroid is a gland in the front of your neck. It makes thyroid hormone (TSH), which helps your body use energy. TSH also keeps your brain, heart, nerves, and muscles doing their jobs.

The American Thyroid Association says that about 20 million Americans may have thyroid disease, but more than half of those people may not know it. In the thyroid disease called hyperthyroidism, the thyroid makes too much TSH. In hypothyroidism, it does not make enough TSH.

Thyroid disease symptoms & testing

Hyperthyroidism symptoms include:

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Shaky or trembling hands
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling hotter than others
  • Changes in menstrual cycle

Hypothyroidism symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Hair changes
  • Decreased mood
  • Feeling colder than others
  • Changes in menstrual cycle

If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. They can order a blood test to see if your thyroid is making the right amount of TSH.

How to Check Your Neck for Thyroid Awareness

Some people with thyroid disease or other conditions can see changes to their neck. An enlarged thyroid (called a goiter) is common. A goiter can cause problems with swallowing, talking or even breathing. Nodules, or lumps under the skin, can also form near your thyroid.

To check your neck for these changes, all you need is a handheld mirror and a glass of water. You can do this self-check at home.

  1. Hold the mirror in your hand, looking at the lower front area of your neck. Your thyroid gland is above the collarbones and below the voice box or Adam’s apple. While focusing on this area in the mirror, tilt your head back.
  2. With your head tilted, take a drink of water and swallow.
  3. As you swallow, look at your neck and check for bulges. (Remember not to confuse the Adam’s apple with the thyroid gland. The thyroid is closer to the collarbones.)

You may want to repeat these steps more than once. If you see any bulges in the lower part of your neck, see your doctor.

The information on these pages is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.

The images being used are for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted is a model.

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