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Thyroid Disorders

Accommodation and Compliance: Thyroid Disorders

About Thyroid Disorders

There are many different thyroid disorders that exist. The most common ones include: Graves' disease, Hashimoto's disease, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer, and thyroiditis. Key terms used to describe a specific thyroid disorder include:

  • Hashimoto's Disease: Hashimoto's disease appears to be an inherited condition and is also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis. It is most common in women who are between 30 and 50 years of age. With Hashimoto's Disease, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland in the neck, prohibiting it from producing hormones. Symptoms of Hashimoto's Disease are feelings of fullness/tightness in throat, trouble swallowing, swelling or bump in the front of the neck, tiredness, forgetfulness, depression, coarse dry skin, slow heartbeat, weight gain, constipation and intolerance to cold. Many people have no symptoms at all.
  • Hyperthyroidism: Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. It is 8 to 10 times more common in women than in men and is the 3rd most common thyroid problem in the US. Graves' disease is the most common form of hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism can mimic other health problems, making it difficult to diagnose. It can also cause a wide variety of symptoms including sudden weight loss, rapid or irregular heartbeat, nervousness, anxiety, irritability, tremors, sweating, changes in menstrual patterns, increased sensitivity to heat, change in bowel patterns, an enlarged thyroid gland at base of neck, fatigue, muscle weakness, and difficulty sleeping.
  • Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone. The most common cause of low thyroid production is Hashimoto's Disease, which is an autoimmune disease. The symptoms of hypothyroidism vary widely, depending on the severity of the hormone deficiency and develop slowly over years. Symptoms include increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin and hair, puffy face, hoarse voice, elevated cholesterol level, unexplained weight gain, muscle cramps, pain and stiffness in joints, muscle weakness, heavier menstrual periods, tiredness, and depression.
  • Thyroid Cancer: Thyroid cancer is a cancerous tumor or growth located within the thyroid gland. Thyroid cancer is uncommon, accounting for only about 1 out of every 100 cancers in the United States. Thyroid cancer is often discovered by patients themselves when they see or feel a nodule or lump on the front of the neck.
  • Thyroiditis: Thyroiditis is a general term used to describe different disorders in which the thyroid gland becomes inflamed.

Thyroid Disorders and the Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).

Accommodating Employees with Thyroid Disorders

People with thyroid disorders may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people who are aging will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.
 

Questions to Consider:

  1. What limitations is the employee experiencing?
  2. How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
  3. What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
  4. What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
  5. Has the employee been consulted regarding possible accommodations?
  6. Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
  7. Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?

Accommodation Ideas:

Situations and Solutions:

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