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.
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 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.
Although goiter may go away on its own, it can also be treated with medications intended to fix any imbalance of thyroid hormone.
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.
Treatment will vary depending on the exact cause of your thyroiditis, though commonly include medication designed to treat any imbalance of hormones.
An overproduction of thyroid hormone, hyperthyroidism speeds up your body’s processes.
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.
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.
Surgery is the most common treatment. Your physician may suggest no treatment depending on hormone levels.
A very common condition, hypothyroidism is an underproduction of the thyroid hormone.
Hypothyroidism is easily treatable with thyroid hormone replacement therapy.
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.
Medication can be prescribed by your physician to fix the hormone imbalance. Radiation therapy and surgery are also options.
Nodules are lumps in the thyroid. Most thyroid nodules do not cause any symptoms and are benign (noncancerous) in nature.
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.
This type of cancer is easy to treat, but often shows no symptoms until tumors grow to a large size.
Thyroid cancer is easily treated through surgery, hormone therapy or radiation therapy. Your physician may also recommend chemotherapy.