When media mogul and talk-show queen Oprah Winfrey opens her mouth, people usually listen. So, it's no surprise that her recent decision to go public about her thyroid condition is raising a lot of awareness about the disease, according to an article penned by Dr. Jennifer Wider for the Society for Women's Health Research.
Millions of people in the United States have a thyroid condition and the vast majority are women. The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists estimates that more than eight out of 10 patients with thyroid disease are female, Wider wrote in her article.
Winfrey described her battle with fatigue and weight gain in the October issue of her magazine. “First hyperthyroidism, which sped up my metabolism and left me unable to sleep for days. (Most people lose weight. I didn’t.) Then hypothyroidism, which slowed down my metabolism and made me want to sleep all the time.”
“Although she has not officially revealed her exact diagnosis, it sounds like chronic autoimmune thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s disease,” explained Samara Ginzburg, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and endocrinology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, told the SWHR. “Hashimoto’s can start with a hyperthyroid phase, due to release of stored hormone from an inflamed gland, followed by a hypothyroid phase.”
Despite the large number of people suffering from thyroid conditions, millions walk around without a proper diagnosis.
“Many of the symptoms of thyroid disease as with other autoimmune diseases are non-specific,” said Rita Baron Faust, a health educator and author of The Autoimmune Connection, told the society. “It’s a laundry list of so-called ‘female’ complaints: fatigue, depression, weight gain, dry skin (underactive thyroid), anxiety, palpitations, brittle or thin hair, and difficulty concentrating (overactive thyroid). Any of these symptoms could be attributed and often are to other conditions.”
The good news is that thyroid disease can be easily diagnosed with a simple blood test and treatment is usually successful.