It's a small part of the body - but kind of a big deal

January 20, 2018

January is Thyroid Awareness Month. Up to 20 million Americans have a thyroid condition — and up to 60 percent of them don’t know it.1 The thyroid can be either overactive or underactive. And both conditions can lead to big health problems for employees.

It’s a hard worker — most of the time

The thyroid is found in the middle of the lower neck. The hormones it produces (T3 and T4) affect every cell in the body. They help control your body temperature and heart rate, and help regulate the production of protein. If the thyroid produces too much — or too little —  T3 and T4, it can create problems. Specifically, those conditions are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.

Here are the facts: 1
•    An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease.
•    Up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.
•    Women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems.
•    The causes of thyroid problems are largely unknown.
•    Undiagnosed thyroid disease may put patients at risk for certain serious conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and infertility.

Hyperthyroidism: overworked and stressed out

Hyperthyroidism happens when the thyroid produces too much T-4.2 Symptoms include irritability, nervousness, shaking, muscle weakness, sudden weight loss and sleeping problems.

Graves disease is a type of hyperthyroidism that affects about one percent of the population. It’s a genetic autoimmune condition that can cause the tissue and muscle behind the eyes to swell (Graves opthalmopathy).

Hyperthyroidism is a lifelong, but treatable, condition. It’s diagnosed through a physical exam, blood test and other thyroid tests if appropriate. Treatments include anti-thyroid medicines and radioactive iodine to slow hormone production.3 In rare cases, surgery may be required.

Hypothyroidism: underactive and tired out

Sometimes the thyroid doesn’t produce enough T-3 and T-4 hormones, or enough thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).4 That leads to hypothyroidism. Symptoms include extreme fatigue, depression, forgetfulness, and weight gain.

Doctors will normally do a physical exam and a blood test to check TSH levels. Standard treatment involves daily use of the synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine to regulate hormone levels.5 The dosage may change over time, so yearly doctor visits are recommended.

Thyroid cancer: the prognosis is good

Thyroid cancer happens when thyroid cells grow and multiply rapidly. They form a tumor, and the abnormal cells can also spread throughout the body. The exact cause of thyroid cancer is unknown, but it can be linked to some inherited conditions.6 There are no early symptoms, but as the cells grow, they may cause a lump in the neck or swollen lymph glands, voice changes, pain and difficulty swallowing.

Most cases of thyroid cancer can be cured with surgery to remove most or all of the thyroid. That’s followed by a lifelong treatment with levothyroxine, which supplies the missing hormone your thyroid would normally produce. It also stops your pituitary gland from producing thyroid-stimulating hormone — which could cause any remaining cancer cells to grow.7

Small gland, big disruption

The good news about thyroid conditions is that they’re treatable. The not-so-good news: They can be physically and mentally challenging. Symptoms range from mild to severe, which can make it hard to work. Hypothyroidism can mean more doctor visits to regulate medicine and check for dosage changes as needed. So employees with thyroid conditions — and their employers — need all the help they can get.

We help calm the disruption

At Prime Therapeutics, we’re here to help people get the medicine they need to feel better and live well. We’re also here to help employers find ways to lower the costs that come with treating chronic conditions. And that’s where we’re different. We look at the bigger picture — medical, pharmacy and clinical — to find more ways to help you manage rising health care costs.

Want to learn more? Contact your Prime Therapeutics representative.

  • 1.  American Thyroid Association. General information/press room. (n.d.) Retrieved December 19, 2017 from

    2.  Mayo Clinic. Hyperthyroidism. Symptoms and causes. (2015). Retrieved December 19, 2017  from

    3.  Mayo Clinic. Hyperthyroidism. Diagnosis and treatment. (2015). Retrieved December 19, 2017 from

    4.  Mayo Clinic. Hypothyroidism. Symptoms and causes. (2017). Retrieved December 19, 2017 from

    5.  Mayo Clinic. Hypothyroidism. Diagnosis and treatment. (2017). Retrieved December 19, 2017 from

    6.  American Cancer Society. What causes thyroid cancer? (n.d.). Retrieved from

    7.  Mayo Clinic. Thyroid cancer. Diagnosis and treatment. (2017). Retrieved December 19, 2017 from