The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that sits in the lower front of the neck. The gland uses the iodine from your food to create two hormones that your body uses for energy, to stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles and other organs working properly.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid produces too many hormones. One type of hyperthyroidism is Grave’s Disease, which is caused by antibodies in the blood that tell the thyroid to grow and create too many hormones. Another type of hyperthyroidism is called toxic nodular, and occurs when a nodule or lump within the thyroid grows too large, causing the thyroid to produce too many hormones. A viral infection may also cause your thyroid to temporarily produce too many hormones.
Too many hormones cause your body to speed up, leading to nervousness, irritability, racing heart, difficulty sleeping and weakness in your muscles. Frequent bowel movements and weight loss are also common.
A blood test is typically all that is needed to diagnose hyperthyroidism. If the blood test comes back positive your doctor will usually order a scan of your thyroi, in order to have a reference point for its size in the future. There are a number of drug therapies available to treat this condition. Antithyroid drugs are used to block the thyroid’s ability to create new hormones. Radioactive iodine can be used to destroy the hormones after they are created by the thyroid. A permanent solution to your hyperthyroidism is surgery to remove most of your thyroid. To ensure you receive the hormones going forward, daily hormone supplements will be prescribed.
Hypothyroidism is the opposite or hyperthyroidism; those with this condition do not produce enough hormones. This will lead to a slowdown of your body, making you feel colder and more tired. Some patients experience depression and constipation. A blood test is the only way to diagnose hypothyroidism.
Daily hormone supplements are the preferred method of treatment. In order to make sure you are taking the correct dose, you will need to have your hormone levels checked with a blood test every 6 to 10 weeks.
A goiter is an abnormal enlargement of your thyroid gland. This is not always an indication that the thyroid is functioning incorrectly, as an enlarged thyroid can still produce the correct amount of hormones.
Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of goiters worldwide. In the US, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common cause. This is an autoimmune condition that involves the destruction of the thyroid by your own immune system. The destruction of the thyroid will lead to a decrease in hormones. The pituitary gland can sense the low levels of hormones and try to compensate, causing the thyroid to grow.
A physical exam can diagnose the presence of a goiter and a blood test can be used to determine the cause. Typically, once you figure out the cause of the goiter, it can be treated and no surgery is needed.
The parathyroid glands are four small glands located behind the thyroid gland. The parathyroid helps to control the amount of calcium in your blood.
The most common disorder associated with the parathyroid glands is hyperparathyroidism. This occurs when one (or more) of the parathyroid glands develops a tumor, leading to an increase in the hormone that regulates the calcium in your blood. This condition leads to high blood calcium, causing kidney stones, frequent headaches and depression. A blood test is necessary to diagnose this condition. In order to treat it, the tumor must be removed.