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Thyroid Disease Affects Millions, Including One Of CBS 11’s Own

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Mireya Villarreal
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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - Hair loss, trouble breathing, and fertility issues — those are just a few of the symptoms that can come with hyperthyroidism.

You’ve probably never given your thyroid a second thought. It’s the gland in your neck that controls everything from how fast your heart beats to how fast you burn calories. Medical experts say 59 million people across the country suffer from either an under active or an over active thyroid. And most don’t know they have a problem.

I was one of those people. That is, until a viewer reached out to me. About eight years ago, I was working in South Texas when I got an email from a viewer who was also a nurse. She said she’d been watching me closely and noticed my eyes had started to bulge and my throat had started to swell. A few weeks later, a visit with my doctor revealed I had hyperthyroidism.

Medicine for hyperthyroidism, Methimazole or Tapazole, helped me stabilize the issue for a while. But my doctors explained those medicines were never intended to be taken long-term and weren’t safe for a females during pregnancy.

Then, this past year, my symptoms hit an all-time high, pushing me to make a tough decision. My thyroid had to go. The medicine wasn’t working well enough and doctors thought it could be affecting my ability to have children. So, after talking things over with my husband, we decided to have my thyroid surgically removed.

“Hyperthyroidism typically can occur in any patient, whether they’re young or they’re old. It is more common in females,” Dr. Chris Bajaj, my endocrinologist, said. “Hyperthyroid typical symptoms are heart racing, tremors and shakes, some weight loss as well as some fatigue.”

In the last year, things I loved to do, like running, were no longer possible. My body felt hot all the time, I was losing hair quickly, and I was constantly eating. If you looked closely at my throat, you could also see my thyroid gland had swelled up pretty big and it was pushing on my wind pipe; which made it harder for me to breath at times. Clearly, my symptoms were taking their toll. My body and, more importantly, my heart couldn’t handle the stress.

Because of my particular symptoms and where I am in my life, I chose to have my thyroid surgically removed. But, as Dr. Bajaj tells us, there are other options out there.

“Surgery is typically the least common way of treating the hyperthyroid patient, as it can carry the most risks. Most commonly we do medication or the radioactive iodine,” Dr. Bajaj explained.

I chose to have my procedure recorded because I wanted people to know how a disease like this can affect anyone, men, women, and even young adults. More importantly, I wanted to encourage people to get checked for thyroid issues regularly.

It only took 24 minutes for Dr. Yadro Ducic and his team at Baylor All Saints to remove my thyroid gland, transforming me from hyperthyroid to hypothyroid.

“She’ll have a little bit of discomfort at the incision site. She’ll have a drain and sutures that will need to come out in a few days. But that’s about it,” Dr. Ducic said. “She should feel better in the long run as well.”

My surgery was nearly two months ago. Initially there was some impact to my vocal cords, but I feel like Iā€™m almost back to normal. I will always have a scar in the crease of my neck, something I’m very proud of and like talking about.

My weight will be something I’ll have to be careful with and exercise and diet will need to be a priority.

And since I no longer have a thyroid gland, I’ll always have to take medicine to help me produce the hormones my thyroid use to make. The good news is the new medicine has minimal side effects.

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