04/17/2013 05:53 pm ET

Hypothyroidism: Sofia Vergara's Condition, Explained

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Actress Sofia Vergara is doing her part to raise awareness about hypothyroidism -- a condition she was diagnosed with following a bout with thyroid cancer that resulted in the removal of her thyroid gland.

"In 2000, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had to have my thyroid removed. As a result, I have a hypothyroid condition and need to take medicine to treat it," Vergara said in a statement. "In my career, I'm known to ad lib and go off-script -- but never when it comes to my health. I make sure to 'Follow the Script' so I get exactly what my doctor prescribed. This is so important to me, because you can't enjoy what you have without your health."

As Leigh Blickey reported for HuffPost Celebrity:

Vergara revealed that she discovered her thyroid issue while at her son Manolo's doctor's appointment in 2000. The physician convinced her to get a check-up and then found out that her thyroid was abnormal just by touching her throat. They did a biopsy and uncovered that her thyroid was, in fact, cancerous.

An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from a thyroid disorder, according to Georgetown University, in which the thyroid doesn't produce a sufficient amount of the hormones that help regulate metabolism, body temperature, heart rate and other important functions. The illness disproportionately affects women, about one in eight of whom will develop some type of thyroid disfunction in her lifetime, according to Georgetown.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include feeling slow or tired, feeling cold, memory problems and difficulty concentrating, muscle cramps, weight gain, depression and dry skin.

Vergara's condition following surgery is in line with that of many hypothyroidism patients who also underwent partial or full gland removal. Other risk factors and associated illnesses for the condition include autoimmune disorders, radiation therapy and certain medications, like the psychiatric drug lithium.

Hypothyroidism is treated with medication containing levothyroxine, reported WebMD. Some cases of mild hypothyroidism don't require medication and instead are treated with a "watch and wait" approach.