ODESSA, Texas — The thyroid is a large ductless gland in the neck which produces hormones that control growth and development all through the rate of metabolism.

“The antibodies that stimulate the thyroid gland causes some condition called Graves’ disease which is hyperthyroid activity of the gland. Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disorder that can cause hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. With this disease, your immune system attacks your thyroid and you can't make enough thyroid hormones," said Dr. Varuna Nargunan with Medical Center Hospital Endocrinologists.

Dr. Nargunan says it’s a disease that’s more common today than ever. 

“There is not a definite number but it's more than 60% of the American population that doesn’t know they have a thyroid problem. It's that prevalent, that’s the latest data from American Thyroid Association," said Dr. Nargunan.

Middle-aged women are eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems, but that doesn’t exclude teens from having it as well.

“My mom always thought that I was just struggling and I was just overweight and I’ve always been failing grades my whole life," said Victoria Hinojosa, a thyroid patient.

Hinojosa thought she wasn’t blessed intellectually. But after years of trips to the doctor and a mom with a good intuition, they finally found what was truly wrong-she had Hashimoto’s.

“She ballooned. She got really big and I just thought nope, something is wrong here," said Cruz Marquez, Valerie’s mother.

Dr. Varuna Nargunan Medical Center Hospital Endocrinologists.

“If you’re low thyroid you have tiredness, sleepy all the time, flaking skin dryness, hair loss, constipation and so forth," said Dr. Nargunan.

The solution? Dr. Nargunan says first, make sure you don’t have any thyroid complications by getting your yearly blood work. If you are diagnosed the typical road to recovery is mostly painless, yet crucial. You have to take a pill every single day for the rest of your life. 

“At least I know now, that is the most important part. It’s not her fault," said Marquez.

"I have to not get upset like I used to, because I did get very upset with her because to me it was like I thought she was just being rebellious. Just being a kid and being rebellious and it wasn’t."

From failing grades for years to now catching up and passing with the rest of her classmates, here’s Valerie's advice to anyone else who may be going through it no matter how old you are.

“When we started finding out what was wrong with me, I was getting a little depressed because this is something new that I didn’t know what was going on. I had to find a way to cope, which for me, drawing has really helped. If someone else is going through this like I am, I think it’s best if they can find something to do to cope with it to be like 'Hey you’re okay, you can go through this,'" said Hinojosa. 

For more information on the thyroid, what diseases impact it and how to get help you can visit the American Thyroid Association website.


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