Originally created 01/22/06

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January is Thyroid Awareness Month. Why all the buzz about a tiny gland in the neck?

That little gland can cause elevated cholesterol levels; infertility; heart disease; and, in extreme cases, coma or death. Twenty-seven million Americans, mostly women, have a thyroid disorder. More than half remain undiagnosed. Because the symptoms are subtle and develop slowly, a thyroid disorder is often dismissed as stress or depression.

WHAT IT IS: The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in front of the windpipe. This gland produces thyroid hormones, which control the body's metabolism. When the body has enough hormones, it simply stops producing more. When there is not enough, the gland makes more. It is when this process goes awry that complications begin.

TOO MUCH: Hyperthyroidism occurs when too many thyroid hormones are present in the bloodstream. The thyroid is overactive, and so is the person. Tip-offs include a rapid heartbeat, trembling hands, increased perspiration, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, hair loss, a good appetite but no weight gain, bulging eyes or a goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland). The most common cause is Grave's disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks its own tissues. Treatment includes antithyroid medications, beta-blocking drugs or radioactive iodine. Rarely, all or part of the gland is removed.

TOO LITTLE: When the thyroid is underactive, too little of the hormone is present. People with hypothyroidism will feel tired or sluggish. They are cold when those around them are not. Trouble concentrating, depression, fertility problems, muscle aches, weight gain, a slow heart rate and thinning hair are other tip-offs. Undergoing treatment for hyperthyroidism usually leads to hypothyroidism. Women and the elderly are particularly at risk. However, treatment is simple. One pill a day usually brings the gland under control.

DIAGNOSIS: A standard blood test is the first step. A thyroid scan, ultrasound or biopsy might also be necessary. So if you're feeling weak or can't seem to lose those extra pounds, think thyroid.

Sources: www.webmd.com, www.medlineplus.com, www.aace.com


This week's events include:


CHEERLEADER AUDITIONS: Preliminary cheer/dance auditions for the Augusta Spartans will be held at 11 a.m. at Health Central, 945 Broad St. A brief routine will be taught. Bring a rsum and photograph. Auditions also will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at Health Central. For more information, call (803) 270-5050.

AUGUSTA FUTURITY: The 27th annual Augusta Futurity continues through Saturday at Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center, 605 Seventh St. Admission costs $2 to $16.50 per day or $40 for Thursday's Classic Finals and all daytime events. For more information, call 828-7700 or visit www.augustafuturity.com.


MUSICAL AUDITIONS: Auditions will begin at 6:30 p.m. for The Young Artists Repertory Company's production of Clue: The Musical in the fellowship hall of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, 402 Aumond Road. Openings are for five males and three females ages 16 to 25. Bring music from any show. An accompanist will be provided. For more information, call 210-8915.


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