Have you recently experienced unexpected weight loss or weight gain? Are you exhausted all the time? Do you feel a lump in the front of your neck? All of these symptoms could indicate thyroid problems. Read on to understand why it’s important to see a doctor for a complete evaluation of your symptoms.
Where Is My Thyroid, and What Does It Do?
Your thyroid gland is a small gland shaped like a bow tie, located just above your collarbones in the middle of the lower neck. You may not be able to feel your thyroid, especially if isn’t swollen. Its job as an endocrine gland is to make hormones that regulate physiological functions such as metabolism. Since your energy level, heart rate, and weight all have to do with metabolism, an irregularity with any of these could indicate a problem with your thyroid.
What Type of Thyroid Problems Could I Have, and What Type of Thyroid Treatment Is Available?
There are several common thyroid problems, but it’s important to see a doctor for a diagnosis of your specific symptoms. Here are the thyroid disorders we see most often:
Hyperthyroidism: This happens when your thyroid makes too much of the hormone that regulates metabolism. Symptoms of an overactive thyroid are fatigue, depression, constipation, cold sensitivity, dry skin, and weight loss. Patients with hyperthyroidism can take medications to block the effects of excessive production of thyroid hormone.
Graves’ Disease: This autoimmune disorder occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland, causing the gland to overproduce the hormone that regulates metabolism. Symptoms of Graves’ Disease include bulging eyes and vision problems, anxiety, hand tremors, rapid heartbeat and an enlarged thyroid.
Symptoms of Graves’ Disease can be controlled with:
• Beta blockers that control anxiety, rapid heart rate, and sweating.
• Medications to prevent the thyroid from producing excessive amounts of hormone.
• Radioactive iodine to destroy all or part of the thyroid.
• Thyroid surgery to remove the gland, if patients cannot tolerate the above treatments.
Hypothyroidism: This is the term used when a thyroid doesn’t produce enough of the hormone needed to regulate metabolism. Symptoms include a slow heart rate and weight gain, as well as sluggishness and irritability. Patients can take thyroid hormone replacement pills to help them produce a sufficient amount of the hormone needed for regular functioning.
Goiter: An enlarged thyroid gland is often called a goiter, and can be felt as a lump above your Adam’s Apple. In some cases, a goiter can indicate thyroid cancer, so it’s important to get it checked out, especially if you have a family history.
How Does an ENT Doctor Diagnose Thyroid Disorders?
An ENT physician at Sound Health will discuss your medical history and conduct a physical examination along with necessary tests. In some cases, imaging studies or fine-needle aspiration may be required. To determine the cause of your thyroid problems, your doctor may order:
• A chest X-ray, CT or MRI scan, or ultrasound
• A radioactive thyroid scan
• Blood tests of thyroid function
• A fine-needle aspiration biopsy
If I Need Thyroid Surgery, What Can I Expect?
If hormone altering medications aren’t effective or are not an option for treatment, your doctor may recommend thyroid surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland. In the hospital under general anesthesia, the surgeon will remove the lobe of the thyroid gland containing the lump and biopsy it. Findings will determine whether the surgeon decides to remove additional tissue or the entire gland. This will be discussed with you before and after your surgery. Most patients are discharged the same day or the following day.
If no cancer is found, you will probably start hormone replacement therapy right away. If there is a malignancy, thyroid replacement medication will be postponed as your doctor determines if cancer cells have spread.
Doctors at Sound Health Are Knowledgeable in Thyroid Disorders
If you are experiencing worrisome symptoms or feel a lump at the front of your neck, call Sound Health for a complete examination by an ENT doctor. We treat each case individually and will work closely with you to determine the best treatment for your thyroid problems. Call us today at (314) 332-1377 to make an appointment.