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National Institute of Diabetes and
Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

For Immediate Release
Friday, September 26, 2008

Mary M. Harris

NIDDK Publishes Fact Sheets about Thyroid Disorders

Thyroid problems affect as many as 27 million Americans. Among the most common problems are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. To help people learn more about thyroid disorders, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has produced four new fact sheets for consumers and health care providers.

The thyroid, a two-inch-long, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck, produces two hormones that affect critical body functions, including metabolism, brain development, breathing, heart and nervous system functions, body temperature, muscle strength, skin dryness, menstrual cycles, weight, and cholesterol levels. When the thyroid gland makes more thyroid hormone than the body needs, a condition known as hyperthyroidism develops. Conversely, hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces inadequate amounts of hormone.

  • Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism. These two fact sheets explain the causes, symptoms and risk factors for these opposite conditions, as well as diagnosis and treatment. The fact sheets are available online at www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/Hyperthyroidism and www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/Hypothyroidism.

  • Graves’ Disease. A related fact sheet entitled Graves' Disease provides information about this autoimmune disorder, which is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States. People with other autoimmune diseases — such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and vitiligo, a disorder in which some parts of the skin are not pigmented — have an increased chance of developing Graves’ disease. The fact sheet is available at www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/graves.

  • Pregnancy and Thyroid Disease. This fact sheet addresses how pregnancy affects thyroid function, the causes of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism in pregnancy, and how thyroid disease affects mother and baby. One condition that develops after pregnancy is postpartum thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid gland that appears 1 month to 8 months after giving birth. Thyroiditis can cause stored thyroid hormone to leak out of the inflamed gland and raise hormone levels in the blood. The condition causes a brief period of hyperthyroidism, often followed by hypothyroidism that usually lasts less than a year before the thyroid heals. However, in about one in five women, the hypothyroidism is permanent. For a copy of this fact sheet, visit www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/pregnancy.

The National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service is part of the NIDDK. The Information Service is located at 6 Information Way, Bethesda, MD 20892–3569, 1–888–828–0904 (phone), 1–866–569–1162 (TTY), 703–738–4929 (fax),endoandmeta@info.niddk.nih.gov, www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov.

The NIDDK, a component of the NIH, conducts and supports research on diabetes and other endocrine and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases, nutrition and obesity; and kidney, urologic and hematologic diseases. Spanning the full spectrum of medicine and afflicting people of all ages and ethnic groups, these diseases encompass some of the most common, severe and disabling conditions affecting Americans. For more information about the NIDDK and its programs, see www.niddk.nih.gov.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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