Thyroid Diseases


More than 200 million people worldwide have some form of thyroid disease.

Thyroid Diseases Overview

What is the Thyroid Gland?

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck. The hormone it produces regulates your metabolism.  This, in turn, is critical to the proper function of virtually every system in your body. 

More than 200 million people worldwide have some form of thyroid disease and recent figures show that it’s 4 to 7 times more common in women than men. The good news is that most thyroid conditions are highly treatable. 

Thyroid Diseases Treatment Options

Thyroid issues occur when the gland either over or under produces its special hormone.  Hypothyroidism, also called Hashimoto’s disease, is the most common thyroid problem of all and is caused when the immune system destroys part of the thyroid gland; thereby reducing the amount of hormone it is able to produce.   The most notable symptoms of hypothyroidism are tiredness, weight gain, feeling cold, dry skin, depression and constipation.

Conversely, hyperthyroidism, also known as Graves disease, occurs when the thyroid produces too much hormone.  As you might expect, the symptoms are in direct contrast to those associated with hypothyroidism and include anxiety, irregular heart rate, weight loss, feeling hot and shortness of breath.

Two additional thyroid conditions are nodules and goiter.  Nodules are small lumps in the thyroid gland that cause trouble swallowing and sometimes trouble breathing.  The majority of these are benign but all should be biopsied just in case.  Even when cancerous, the prognosis is generally good.

Goiter is caused by dietary iodine deficiency.  In addition to the swelling of the thyroid gland, it shares the same symptoms — trouble swallowing and breathing — as nodules.

Diagnosis

The symptoms associated with thyroid diseases may be caused by any number of illnesses and conditions.  When patients present them, physicians use a specific set of diagnostic procedures to confirm that the problem is indeed thyroid related. 

Physical Exam 

Thyroid disease can often be detected by a physical exam of the neck.  A physician can manually feel swelling, lumps and other changes  — indicating a problem that warrants further investigation. 

Blood Tests

Most thyroid issues are caused by either too much or too little of the special T3 and T4 hormones produced by the gland.  A series of blood tests may be used to detect and measure the amount of hormones the gland is producing and the amount of these hormones present in the bloodstream.

Radioactive Iodine Test

A form of nuclear medicine, thyroid scintigraphy is a type of scan that uses radioactive iodine to image the thyroid and assess how well it is functioning.  The radioactive iodine poses no harm to the patient is eventually expelled from the body via urine.

Treatment

Thyroid disorders are highly treatable.  Regardless of the type of treatment your physician recommends, all have the same fundamental objective:  to help regulate the amount of hormone being produced by the gland.

Medication

Managing your thyroid problem may be as simple as taking a pill.  There are medication therapies for both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism that aid in the production or reduction of thyroid hormones.

Ablation

Ablation therapy is a non-invasive, effective treatment for hyperthyroidism.  The patient receives a dosage of radioiodine that targets and destroys the thyroid cells that are overproducing hormones.

Surgery

Depending on the diagnosis, partial or full removal of the thyroid in order to control hormone production is also an effective treatment option. After surgery, medication is used to help your body continue to produce the correct amount of hormone.  Regular blood monitoring is therefore required to ensure your thyroid hormone pills maintain their effectiveness.

Radiation Therapy for Thyroid Diseases

Thyroid disorders are highly treatable. Regardless of the type of treatment your physician recommends, all have the same fundamental objective: to help regulate the amount of hormone being produced by the gland.

Medication

Managing your thyroid problem may be as simple as taking a pill.  There are medication therapies for both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism that aid in the production or reduction of thyroid hormones.

Ablation

Ablation therapy is a non-invasive, effective treatment for hyperthyroidism.  The patient receives a dosage of radioiodine that targets and destroys the thyroid cells that are overproducing hormones.

Surgery

Depending on the diagnosis, partial or full removal of the thyroid in order to control hormone production is also an effective treatment option. After surgery, medication is used to help your body continue to produce the correct amount of hormone.  Regular blood monitoring is therefore required to ensure your thyroid hormone pills maintain their effectiveness.

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