Accommodation Ideas for 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.
An employer must consider the functional limitations that an individual with a thyroid disorder displays. First, one must determine the areas in which the employee is having difficulty. What is it specifically that the employee cannot do? Is the performance problem related to the disability? Once the problematic area(s) have been identified, then the employer needs to ask how the job can be modified, or what assistive devices can be purchased to allow the person to perform the essential functions of his/her job.
Key Terms Used to Describe a Specific Thyroid Disorder:
- 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.
Accommodation ideas for individuals with thyroid disorders:
- Managing fatigue: An individual with a thyroid disorder may benefit from a flexible work schedule, liberal use of leave time, working from home, a reduction of physical exertion and workplace stress, scheduled rest breaks away from the workstation, and ergonomic workstation design.
- Managing restroom breaks: An individual with a thyroid disease may benefit from a flexible schedule to incorporate restroom breaks, a workstation closer to the restroom, a change in job assignment to a job that allows flexible breaks, and work from home during flareups.
- Managing temperature sensitivity: An individual with a thyroid disease may need accommodations to manage temperature sensitivity. To do so, work-site temperature may need to be modified. The individual might benefit from wearing cooling clothing or heated clothing, maintaining the ventilation system, redirecting air and heating vents, having a fan or heater at the workstation, flexible scheduling, modified dress code, and/or work from home during hot/cold weather.