The thyroid is a gland that is shaped like a bow tie and sits under the skin in the front of your neck. The thyroid produces hormones needed by cells in the body in order to work properly. These hormones, called T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triidothyronine), control the body's use of energy and are key factors in helping kids grow.
The thyroid has often been compared to a thermostat: if it's too active and produces too much T4 and T3, the thermostat allows the house to get overheated (hyperthyroidism). If it's not active enough, the house is too cold (hypothyroidism).
Hyperthyroidism is caused when an overactive thyroid releases too much hormone into the bloodstream. This condition is also known as thyrotoxicosis, in which the thyroid produces an excessive amount of thyroxine, resulting in increased metabolic rate, enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter), rapid heart rate, high blood pressure
, and exophthalmos (protruding eyes). One of the more common causes of hyperthyroidism is an autoimmune disorder called Graves' disease.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include feeling uncomfortably hot without reason, unexplained weight loss or gain, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, trembling hands, irregular heartbeat (palpitations), and increased irritability. When hyperthyroidism is severe, patients can suffer shortness of breath, chest pain, and muscle weakness.
Hypothyroidism is caused by underactivity of the thyroid gland. Symptoms of this condition are fatigue, cramps, slowed heart rate, weight gain, and mental sluggishness. The symptoms may vary from mild to severe; the most severe form is called myxedema, and is classified as a medical emergency.
Hypothyroidism can be caused by a disease known as Hashimoto's thyroiditis
, in which the body's immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism may also be caused failure of the pituitary gland to secrete enough hormone to stimulate the thyroid gland (secondary hypothyroidism). Congenital defects, surgical removal of the thyroid gland, irradiation of the gland, or inflammatory conditions may also cause hypothyroidism.
People that are over the age of 50, female, or obese, or those who have had thyroid surgery or exposure of the neck to X-ray or radiation treatments, are at increased risk of developing hypothyroidism.
Disability Benefits for Thyroid Disorders
Social Security does not have a specific disability listing for thyroid disorders since most people can control their thyroid disorder with medication. However, some patients do suffer from complications due to hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, including heart problems, strokes, unintentional weight gain or loss, depression, and anxiety. Here is how the SSA evaluates these thyroid-related complications.
- Thyroid-related heart conditions are assessed under Listing 4.00, Cardiovascular System.
- Thyroid cancer is assessed under Listing 13.09, Malignant Neoplastic Diseases - Thyroid.
- Unintentional weight loss is assessed under Listing 5.08, under Digestive Systems.
- Strokes are assessed under Listing 11.04, under Central Nervous System Vascular Accidents.
- Depression, anxiety, and cognitive problems are assessed under Listing 12.00, Mood Disorders.