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Thyroid Disorders

Located in your neck, the thyroid is a gland that produces hormones important throughout your body. Hormones act as messengers, moving around the body in the bloodstream. Your thyroid produces multiple hormones with different functions, collectively called thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones affect many bodily functions, such as metabolism and how you grow, especially as a child.

 

Thyroid Tests

When your thyroid causes problems, there are different ways your primary care physician or endocrinologist will test your thyroid function and diagnose. Drawing blood is helpful because it allows your physician to test for specific hormones in your blood, such as T3 and T4 (thyroxine), thyroglobulins, thyroid stimulating hormone and more.

 

Other methods of diagnosing a thyroid condition include a physical exam by your physician, a thyroid scan, thyroid biopsy, thyroid needle aspiration or other imaging tests.

 

Common disorders include:


Goiter

 

Goiter is any swelling or enlarging of the thyroid gland. It can be temporary or permanent, and can be brought on by a number of reasons. You could even develop a goiter if your diet consists of a large amount of goiter promoting foods such as spinach, soybeans or rutabagas.

 

Symptoms

  • Swelling of the neck
  • Difficulty swallowing, talking or breathing

Treatment

Although goiter may go away on its own, it can also be treated with medications intended to fix any imbalance of thyroid hormone.
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Thyroiditis

Inflammation of the thyroid gland, thyroiditis could be caused by a variety of underlying conditions. Symptoms may or may not occur, and can vary depending on how swollen your thyroid gland is, as well as which underlying condition(s) are causing your thyroiditis.

 

Symptoms

  • Gastrointestinal issues such as constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Fatigue and/or muscle weakness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Puffy or protruding eyes
  • Anxiety
  • Unexplained changes in weight

Treatment

Treatment will vary depending on the exact cause of your thyroiditis, though commonly include medication designed to treat any imbalance of hormones.

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Hyperthyroidism

 

An overproduction of thyroid hormone, hyperthyroidism speeds up your body’s processes.

 

Symptoms

  • Fatigue or muscle weakness
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Hand tremors
  • Excessive sweating
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Insomnia or other sleep issues

Treatment

Hyperthyroidism is easily managed with anti-thyroid medication that regulates the production of thyroid hormone. Other treatments include radiation therapy and the use of beta blockers to treat symptoms.

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Hyperparathyroidism

 

Similar to hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism is an overproduction of the parathyroid hormone. There are two types of hyperparathyroidism. Primary hyperparathyroidism is an enlarged parathyroid gland that stimulates overproduction. Secondary hyperparathyroidism is caused when other health issues reduce the amount of calcium in the body, causing an increase of parathyroid hormone levels.

 

Symptoms

  • Kidney stones
  • Excessive urination
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue or muscle weakness

Treatment

Surgery is the most common treatment. Your physician may suggest no treatment depending on hormone levels.

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Hypothyroidism

 

A very common condition, hypothyroidism is an underproduction of the thyroid hormone.

 

Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Cold sensitivity
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Bloating or retaining excess water
  • Mood swings and/or depression

Treatment

Hypothyroidism is easily treatable with thyroid hormone replacement therapy.

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Graves Disease

 

Also known as Basedow’s disease, Graves disease causes the entire thyroid gland to become enlarged. It is an immune disorder that causes an overproduction of hormones. It is much more common in women.

 

Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Heat sensitivity
  • Weight loss
  • Puffy or protruding eyes
  • Fatigue or muscle weakness
  • Hand tremors

Treatment

Medication can be prescribed by your physician to fix the hormone imbalance. Radiation therapy and surgery are also options.

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Thyroid Nodules

 

Nodules are lumps in the thyroid. Most thyroid nodules do not cause any symptoms and are benign (noncancerous) in nature.

 

Symptoms

  • Lumps (nodules) in neck
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing

Treatment

Unless your nodule(s) are impacting your quality of life, your physician will likely recommend no treatment. In the case of large or cancerous nodules, treatment is often surgery or other targeted therapies.

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Thyroid Cancer

 

This type of cancer is easy to treat, but often shows no symptoms until tumors grow to a large size.

 

Symptoms

  • Lumps (nodules) in neck
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Continuous cough not related to other illness

Treatment

Thyroid cancer is easily treated through surgery, hormone therapy or radiation therapy. Your physician may also recommend chemotherapy.
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