The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the lower neck responsible for producing hormones that control metabolism. Abnormalities in the thyroid gland are quite common affecting up to 5% of the general population. Even subtle imbalances in thyroid hormone levels can lead to symptoms, such as weight gain, fatigue, muscle aches, constipation and depression. The cause of these symptoms may go unexplained for years unless your physician considers the thyroid as the potential cause, and orders the appropriate diagnostic tests.
HYPOTHYROIDISM: usually an autoimmune condition in which the thyroid is not producing enough thyroid hormone to support the body’s metabolism. Untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to an increase risk of heart disease. The most common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism are:
HYPERTHYROIDISM: condition in which the thyroid produces abnormally high levels of thyroid hormone, creating a hypermetabolic state. The causes of an overactive thyroid can be infection, as is the case with subacute thyroiditis, autoimmune disease from Grave’s disease, and toxic thyroid nodules. Hyperthyroidism, if left untreated, can eventually lead to osteoporosis and cardiac abnormalities, including an enlarged heart and irregular heart rhythm.
A general term for thyroid swelling. Goiters can be harmless, or can represent iodine deficiency or a condition associated with thyroid inflammation called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Inflammation of the thyroid, usually from a viral infection or autoimmune condition. Thyroiditis can be painful, or have no symptoms at all.
An autoimmune condition in which the thyroid is overstimulated, causing hyperthyroidism. .
An uncommon form of cancer, thyroid cancer is usually curable. Surgery, radiation, and hormone treatments may be used to treat thyroid cancer.
A small abnormal mass or lump in the thyroid gland. Thyroid nodules are extremely common. Few are cancerous. They may secrete excess hormones, causing hyperthyroidism, or cause no problems.
A rare form of hyperthyroidism in which extremely high thyroid hormone levels cause severe illness. .
Daily treatment that replaces the amount of thyroid hormone you can no longer make. Thyroid hormone pills (levothyroxine) treat hypothyroidism, and are also used to help prevent thyroid cancer from coming back after treatment. .
Drugs can slow down the overproduction of thyroid hormone in hyperthyroidism. Common antithyroid medicines are carbimazole, methimazole and propylthiouracil.
A surgeon removes all or part of the thyroid in an operation. Thyroidectomy is performed for thyroid cancer, goiter, or hyperthyroidism. .
Iodine with radioactivity that can be used in low doses to test the thyroid gland or destroy an overactive gland. Large doses can be used to destroy cancerous tissue.
A beam of radiation is directed at the thyroid, on multiple appointments. The high-energy rays help kill thyroid cancer cells.
Injecting this thyroid-stimulating agent can make thyroid cancer show up more clearly on imaging tests.