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A Thyroid Primer for the Correctional Nurse

More than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime (American Thyroid Association, 20217). An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition. Women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems. The causes of thyroid problems are largely unknown. Undiagnosed thyroid disease may put patients at risk for certain serious conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and infertility. Pregnant women with undiagnosed or inadequately treated hypothyroidism have an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm delivery, and severe developmental problems in their children. Most thyroid diseases are life-long conditions that can be managed with medical attention.

For some individuals, the healthcare they receive in the correctional environment is the first they have received in quite some time, and many have undiagnosed serious illnesses. The correctional nurse conducting health assessments and sick call must be aware of the signs and symptoms of many chronic diseases, including disorders of the thyroid.  The patients rely on our ability  to identify abnormalities and properly inform providers so that further assessment and diagnostics can be done.

Through this class, the correctional nurse will gain an introduction to disorders of the thyroid, including common causes of hypothyroid and hyperthyroid.