Do a Self-Check

Thyroid disease doesn't always have signs or symptoms. When it does, the symptoms may be easily dismissed as symptoms of other conditions or lifestyle issues. Those who have symptoms directly related to their thyroid may notice a lump in their throat, hoarseness in their voice, or a pain in the neck.

In any case, one of the best ways to assess your thyroid health is to do a thyroid neck check. Because thyroid disease is so prevalent, many experts recommend performing an annual neck check on yourself — the same way women are advised to do monthly breast exams and all people are told to examine their skin. Keep in mind, however, that a self-check does not compensate for a visit to your doctor. According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), here's how to do a neck check:

  • Get a glass of water and a hand-held mirror.

  • With the mirror in your hand, study the area of your neck just below the Adam's apple and immediately above the collarbone. That is the location of your thyroid gland.

  • While focusing on this area, tip your head back.

  • Take a drink of water and swallow.

  • As you do, look at your neck. Be on the lookout for bulges or protrusions in this area when you swallow. Be careful not to confuse the Adam's apple with the thyroid gland, which is closer to the collarbone.

  • Repeat this process a few times if you suspect anything.

  • If you do see any bulges or protrusions, you should see your physician.

Many things can go wrong with the thyroid, and there are myriad tests and treatments for many types of problems. Making sense of all of them can sometimes be overwhelming. If you're not feeling well, you may already be overwhelmed and fearful about your health. You may be worried that what you have is potentially fatal. But keep in mind that knowledge is power and that information about your health is critical. It just shouldn't compound your stress.

The goal is for you to learn as much as possible about your thyroid and your particular thyroid condition. The more you know, the more quickly you'll get a diagnosis and treatment. It will also enable you to speak intelligently with your doctors and to become a partner in your ongoing care.

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