January is Thyroid Awareness Month. You may be aware that you HAVE a thyroid, but are you aware of the important role your thyroid plays in how your body functions?The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck, above your collarbone. It it one of your endocrine glands and produces hormones which, among other things, regulates your metabolism, including your body temperature and your body’s consumption of oxygen and food. Thyroid disease, however, is quite common, especially among women.Take this online quiz to find out if you could have a thyroid problem.

The most common thyroid problem in this country, affecting millions of people (most of them women), is hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland is under active, and is not producing enough hormone to properly run the body’s metabolism. This can happen due to an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis which causes the body to attack the thyroid, resulting in the gland producing less hormone. Other causes include having the thyroid removed and exposure to excessive amounts of iodine. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, fatigue, and sensitivity to cold. Hypothyroidism can be identified by a simple blood test, and is treated by hormone supplementation to get the levels up to normal. Take this online quiz to determine if you have symptoms of hypothyroidism.

The second most common thyroid issue is hyperthyroidism — or having an overactive thyroid gland which produces too much hormone. This can happen due to an autoimmune disorder called Graves’ disease, which causes the body to send false signals to the thyroid gland telling it to produce hormone when it shouldn’t. Other causes can include certain thyroid nodules and thyroiditis. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include weight loss, sensitivity to heat, and a fast heart beat. Hyperthyroidism can also be identified by a simple blood test, and is treated in a variety of ways once the specific cause is determined. Take this online quiz to determine if you have symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

Thyroid nodules are fluid-filled cysts which are often benign. Your doctor may recommend a thyroid ultrasound to evaluate a nodule. A thyroid biopsy might be ordered to rule out thyroid cancer.

For more information about thyroid disease, diagnosis and treatments, visit the American Thyroid Association.