Wellness Wednesday: Thyroid Awareness Month

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RAPID CITY, S.D. -

January marks Thyroid Awareness Month. NewsCenter1 spoke with a physician on signs that you may need to get tested.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the base of the neck. Dr. Sonalika Khachikian, MD, at Regional Health says the best way to think of it is as the engine for the body.

"The engine talks about how fast your body will function. If you rev up the engine, it'll go fast, and if you slow down the engine, it'll go slow. And anybody who's a car enthusiast knows nobody wants to have a car that's either over functioning all the time, or under functioning all the time."

An over-active thyroid is called hyper-thyroidism,or under active which is considered hypo-thyroidism.

"There are more patients who are under active rather than over active. Neither one of the two feels good."

A problem with the thyroid gland can cause increased stress on your heart and bones. It's important to recognize the symptoms, though not everyone will experience them.

"Often times you can feel cold, sluggish, have leg cramps, notice that you kind of just feel very foggy; your memory is not great. And an over active thyroid can make you feel really hot. You can have increased sweating; your skin can be really dry because it's turning over so fast. It can cause increased bone loss and can actually be related to osteoporosis."

Having your thyroid tested annually by your primary care doctor is the best way to identify a thyroid issue - but you can also check it at home.

"You can look in the mirror you can actually feel it. A normal thyroid should feel like a fresh marshmallow. That's what I tell my patients. So it's very smooth it kind of glides through your hands. If you feel it, and it feels like it has lumps or bumps in it that 's something to bring up to your primary care doctor."

Thyroid conditions are hereditary, so if you have a family member with a thyroid condition, it’s a good idea to get tested.

READ MORE: The benefits of hot yoga

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