By Kerry Benjamin, Contributing Writer
You know when your doctor gives your throat and neck a good once-over at every annual exam? She’s not just making sure you’re swallowing well; she’s also checking for any abnormalities in your thyroid—a small gland located in the middle front of your neck. This small, butterfly-shaped gland releases two different types of hormones that regulate your body’s metabolism. Metabolism is much more than just how you process food—it refers to the speed at which all of the cells in your body operate. This includes the cells responsible for your skin health: those that help you heal, those that help your skin shed and regenerate, and even those that help produce sweat and oils.
When your thyroid begins releasing too much or too little thyroid hormone, you have a thyroid disorder. It’s not uncommon—1 in 5 women will have a thyroid imbalance in their lifetime. Too much thyroid hormone and your metabolism skyrockets. Too little and it slows way down. Whether caused by an underlying autoimmune disease or nodules on the gland, an out-of-whack thyroid can cause numerous health issues like weight gain, hair loss, extreme fatigue, and anxiety. But one of the first places that people often notice a problem is in their skin.
Hypothyroidism, or not enough thyroid hormone, can cause skin to be extremely dry, rough, itchy, thickened, and swollen. Hyperthyroidism, or too much thyroid hormone, can cause excessive sweating, prominent hair follicles and red plaques on the skin. If you notice any of these symptoms and have been feeling ill, contact your doc to have your thyroid examined.