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Thyroid diseases

The thyroid is a small gland in your neck that makes and stores hormones that help regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and the rate your body uses energy from food. Two common thyroid conditions include:

  • Graves' disease (overactive thyroid) – An autoimmune disease that causes the thyroid gland to make too much thyroid hormone. High levels of thyroid hormone can cause symptoms such as trouble sleeping, irritability, weight loss, sensitivity to heat, muscle weakness, bulging eyes, and shaky hands. It tends to appear in women older than 20. Pregnant women with Grave's disease need to have thyroid levels watched throughout pregnancy.
  • Hashimoto's disease (underactive thyroid) – An autoimmune disease that causes the thyroid gland to stop making enough thyroid hormone. As a result, you body uses energy more slowly than it should. Low thyroid hormone levels can cause symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, muscle aches and stiff joints, swelling in the face, and constipation. It is most common in middle-aged women. Some women get Hashimoto's disease while pregnant. It causes thyroid problems in women after the baby is born. But these problems often go away. Many times, women have postpartum depression at the same time.

Other thyroid disorders, such as thyroid cancer, don't always affect thyroid function.

Treatment can help most common thyroid disorders. If not treated, some thyroid disorders can cause a variety of health problems and be very disabling. Untreated Graves' disease can lead to heart problems and pregnancy problems, including risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy and preterm birth. Untreated Hashimoto's disease can cause further health problems, including problems getting pregnant, depression, and even heart failure. Symptoms of thyroid disorders should be checked out by a doctor.

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More information on Thyroid diseases

Read more from womenshealth.gov

  • Graves' Disease Fact Sheet - This fact sheet provides information on the symptoms, diagnosis, and possible treatment options for Graves' disease.
  • Hashimoto's Disease Fact Sheet - This fact sheet explains what Hashimoto's disease is, what the symptoms are, how it is diagnosed, what the treatment options are, and what could happen without treatment.
  • Thyroid Disease Fact Sheet - This fact sheet describes the causes and symptoms of thyroid disease, explains how you can get a test, and discusses the available treatment options.

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Content last updated: September 22, 2009.

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