Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the front of your neck between your larynx and your trachea. It is an essential part of your anatomy. When a thyroid is healthy and functioning properly, it’s a tremendous worker for your body.
“Your thyroid produces hormones that are important for your brain development as an infant and responsible for your metabolic activity as an adult,” said Rashi Agarwal, MD, endocrinologist at Banner Health. “Your thyroid affects virtually every organ system in your body.”
Certain conditions can prevent your thyroid from doing what it is meant to do.
We asked for Dr. Agarwal’s advice on recognizing and treating thyroid problems.
There are two main conditions related to the functioning of your thyroid gland: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
When your thyroid does not produce enough hormones, it is called hypothyroidism.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, hypothyroidism in women is more common than men.
How do you know if you have hypothyroidism? Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- an intolerance to cold temperatures,
- weight gain or inability to lose weight,
- decreased heart rate
- and coarse hair and skin.
“Hypothyroidism should be treated with thyroid replacement hormones, which are available as oral medications,” Dr. Agarwal said. “In severe cases of hypothyroidism, or if you are unable to tolerate or take oral medication, an IV form is also available.”
Dr. Agarwal warned that while on medication, regular blood tests should be done to ensure that you are maintaining proper thyroid hormone levels.
“Excessive hormone replacement can have adverse effects that can lead to cardiac arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation, and deterioration of bone health, especially if you’re postmenopausal,” Dr. Agarwal said.
The opposite condition – hyperthyroidism – occurs when your thyroid works too much and produces more hormones than it should.
As with hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism is also more common in women.
“Hyperthyroidism can cause feeling tired, weight loss, or sometimes gaining if you have an increased appetite, intolerance to heat, rapid heartbeat with palpitations, heart arrhythmias, tremors, diarrhoea, increased sweating and thinning hair,” Dr Agarwal said.
Treatment for hyperthyroidism can also be done by oral medications or by radioactive iodine destruction of the thyroid gland or by surgery, according to Dr. Agarwal. Your treatment options depend on the severity and cause of your hyperthyroidism. As with hypothyroidism, the drugs used to treat hyperthyroidism have side effects, so you need to be watched closely.
In addition to hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, you may also have goiter (enlarged thyroid), thyroid nodules (lumps in the thyroid gland), or thyroid cancer.
If you think you have a thyroid problem, see a Banner health care provider in Brush or Fort Morgan by calling 970-842-6262 to schedule an appointment.