The thyroid gland sits at the base of the neck and produces hormones that regulate the metabolism (how you turn food into energy). Too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroid) and you could be edgy, irritable, unable to sleep, and thin. If you don’t have enough thyroid hormone (hypothyroid), you could be tired, depressed, and gaining weight.
For 20 million Americans, thyroid problems are a daily issue. Untreated, they could lead to anemia, heart disease, and osteoporosis. For women, it could affect fertility, menstrual cycles, and cause early menopause. Pregnancy can even bring on thyroid problems.
One of the more concerning thyroid diseases is Graves’diseasewhich is an autoimmune (the body turns on itself) disease. Generally, there will be a goiter, or lump in the throat, which are benign tumors. It is caused by an overactive thyroid.
A condition called thyroiditis can inflame the gland and cause temporary hyperthyroidism. The overactive thyroid is usually followed with hypothyroidism (underactive).
The most common is Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which occurs eight times more often in women than men. It can cause a goiter, fatigue, and weight gain.
Nodules are very common and mostly harmless. Of the ones seen by physicians, 95% are benign. If there is hoarseness, trouble swallowing, a family history of thyroid cancer, or radiation exposure, the nodule could be cancerous and should be surgically removed.
Thyroid cancer is one of the most curable. With proper evaluation and treatment at the UAB Department of Endocrinology, people can live many years.
- measurement of thyroid hormone in the bloodstream
- scan - uses a radioactive substance to create an image of the thyroid as it is functioning
- thyroid uptake - radioiodine uptake into the thyroid is measured over a period of time.
Treatments and Services
- antithyroid drugs that help lower the level of thyroid hormones in the blood.
- use of radioactive iodine, in a pill or liquid, which damages thyroid cells to slow down the production of hormones
- surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid (the overactive nodule)
- beta-blocking agents, which block the thyroid hormone (these drugs do not change the levels of thyroid hormone in the blood, but make the patient feel better)