GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — Your thyroid is a small gland that can cause big problems if you don't pay attention to the signs there is something wrong.

The butterfly shaped endocrine gland is in your throat below your Adam's apple. About 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid problem and even more have an issue but don't know it. 

The thyroid secretes hormones which help regulate the heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and the rate that food is converted to energy. The hormones are essential to the body functioning properly. So what happens if there is something wrong with the thyroid? 

Hypothyroidism is the most common situation, and it mostly effects women. This is what it is called when the thyroid does not produce enough hormones. This causes the metabolism to slow down and can lead to other health problems. Some symptoms include: 

  • Exhaustion or weakness
  • Weight gain or obesity
  • Lack of appetite
  • Changes to the menstrual cycle
  • Lack of sexual desire
  • Feeling cold
  • Constipation
  • Muscle aches
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Brittle nails
  • Hair loss
  • Intolerance to cold
  • Dry skin

Hyperthyroidism is the opposite of hypothyroidism. It happens when the thyroid gland produces too many hormones and causes your metabolism to skyrocket. Some symptoms include:

  • Exhaustion
  • Weight loss
  • Nervousness
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Feeling hot
  • More frequent bowel movements
  • Increased perspiration
  • Tremors
  • Fever
  • Accelerated heart rate

There is no definite way to prevent either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. That said, a balanced diet, exercise, and healthy habits can reduce the risk of thyroid problems in the future. 

You can learn more about the services Porter Hills has to offer on their website. 

►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.

Have a news tip? Email, visit our Facebook page or Twitter.