Thyroid Awareness

What is Thyroid Disease?

January is Thyroid Awareness Month

The thyroid is a small gland in our neck that plays a critical role in our overall health, influencing metabolism, energy levels, and even heart rate. Yet, thyroid disorders remain widely misunderstood and often go undiagnosed. Keep reading to learn more about the functions of the thyroid, the different types of thyroid diseases and how to detect them, and tips for how to prevent thyroid disease.

 Thyroid on human body

20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease.

1 in 8 American women will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime.

12% of the U.S. population will experience a thyroid condition at some point in their lives, according to the American Thyroid Association (ATA).

Functions of the Thyroid

  • Regulates the rate at which your body uses energy, which affects weight gain/loss and is known as the metabolic rate.
  • Slows down or speeds up your heart rate.
  • Raises or lowers your body temperature.
  • Influences the speed at which food moves through your digestive tract.
  • Affects your brain development.
  • Controls the way your muscles contract.
  • Manages skin and bone maintenance by controlling the rate at which your body replaces dying cells (a normal process).

Types of Thyroid Disease

There are two main types of thyroid disease. Other conditions can occur within the thyroid, such as cancers and inflammation, but these are typically more rare and treatable.


This is the most common thyroid disorder. Hypothyroidism refers to the thyroid being underactive. This is often caused by an autoimmune disease, in which the human body attacks its own healthy cells due to a malfunction in the immune system. This autoimmune disease is known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, dry skin, hair loss, muscle weakness, depression, and slowed heart rate are the common symptoms of this disease. Treatment options include daily thyroid hormone replacement therapy.


Contrary to hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism is the term used to refer to an overactive thyroid. Common symptoms include weight loss, rapid heartbeat, sweating, nervousness, irritability, and heat intolerance. Grave’s disease, an autoimmune disorder, is the leading cause of hyperthyroidism. Individuals with this disease may notice an enlarged thyroid (goiter), bulging eyes (Graves’ ophthalmopathy), and skin thickening. Treatment options include anti-thyroid medications, radioactive iodine therapy, or thyroid surgery.

Risk Factors for Thyroid Disease

There are many risk factors for thyroid disease, but many of them cannot be controlled.

Gender– Women are more likely than men to develop thyroid disease. Women have a more vigorous immune response than men, which unfortunately makes them more prone to autoimmune diseases that can lead to thyroid disorders.

Age– Although thyroid disorders can occur at any age, they are much more likely to occur in individuals over 60 years of age.

Genetics– If there is a family history of thyroid disease, the risk of inheriting the disease increases.

Other autoimmune diseases– For individuals with autoimmune diseases, such as Type 1 diabetes or celiac disease, the risk of developing thyroid disease is greater.

Pregnancy and postpartum– Due to hormonal and immune changes, pregnant or postpartum women are more likely to develop thyroid disease.

Iodine intake– Though not as prominent in the US where most salts are iodized, the risk of developing hypothyroidism increases in areas where iodine is scarce.

Other risk factors– Smoking, radiation exposure, certain medications, injury, and stress may also increase the risk of a thyroid disorder.

Reducing Thyroid Disease Risk


For any uf or uf health employee

Live-Streamed Fitness/Wellness Classes

Join the GatorCare Wellness Team Monday-Thursday at 12 PM for a 15-minute live-streamed fitness or wellness class. Each day focuses on a different aspect of fitness and wellness, including cardio, strength training, meditation, and stretching. All fitness levels are welcome, and no equipment is needed!

LIve-streamed classes



Looking for a fun way to get active? Join Zumba, the ultimate dance fitness party! Zumba boosts your energy by combining cardio, muscle conditioning, balance, and flexibility. Zumba is free to UF Health Shands and UF employees. Classes take place at UF Health Professional Park (3300 SW Williston Rd, Gainesville, FL) on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 PM – 6:15 PM in room D102 (The Swamp). Sign up for a fun-filled workout!


Educational Resource

Support Network

The ATA provides researchers and clinicians with networking opportunities and resources that will help them grow their careers and stay current on leading-edge research and advances in clinical care. Additionally, ATA is committed to providing patients and their families with reliable information and tools to help them learn more about and manage their thyroid disease and thyroid cancer.

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for Any Florida BLue Member 18+

Next Steps Health Coaching

Experience individualized health coaching with the Florida Blue Next Steps Health Coaching program. Health coaching is free for all Florida Blue members who are ages 18+ and is available through phone and email with a Registered Nurse Certified Health Coach.
During these one-on-one sessions, discuss health and wellness topics that matter to you.



Walking Challenges

GatorCare hosts walking challenges for UF and UF Health employees (and family members!) via an online step-tracking platform called Walker Tracker. Using Walker Tracker makes it easier for you to track your daily steps and even compete against your coworkers and family to encourage you to reach your step goals. Walker Tracker can be accessed on a computer browser or via an app that is downloadable to your personal cell phone. You can sync your wearable activity-tracking device or you can manually enter your steps into the platform.

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