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The thyroid is an important gland for controlling many physical functions of our bodies. To put it simply, it is responsible for our metabolism, the way in which we utilize energy. It works in concert with another important gland, the pituitary gland. But sometimes the thyroid doesn’t produce the correct level of hormones. What happens then?
What is the thyroid?
The thyroid is part of the endocrine system. As such, it produces hormones as other endocrine glands do. It is located in the middle of the lower neck, just below the larynx or Adam’s apple, and wraps around the front portion of the upper (cervical) trachea. In most people it is visible, especially if it is enlarged (also known as a goiter) or has nodules in it, CEENTA ENT doctor and thyroid surgery specialist Timothy Kelly, MD, said.
What is hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism is when you have an overactive thyroid, which produces too much of the hormones T4 (thyroxine) and/or T3. Hyperthyroidism increases your metabolism. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, an increased appetite, weight loss, difficulty sleeping, a racing heart, irritability, fatigue, nervousness, and tremors.
If left untreated, hyperthyroidism can lead to heart problems, eye problems, osteoporosis, red and swollen skin, and a condition called thyrotoxic storm or crisis, in which hyperthyroidism symptoms suddenly get worse. This can be very serious if untreated. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Grave’s disease, an autoimmune disorder, Dr. Kelly said.
How is hyperthyroidism treated?
Fortunately, hyperthyroidism is rather easy to diagnose through blood tests. Treatment may include medications to counteract the excessive hormone levels, radioactive iodine, beta blockers, and, in some cases, surgery.
What is hypothyroidism?
The opposite side of the coin is hypothyroidism, when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, loss of energy, sensitivity to cold, muscle aches, stiffness or swelling in the joints, thinning hair, a slower heart rate, and depression.
Sometimes, babies are born with no thyroid or an underdeveloped one. Symptoms of hypothyroidism in babies can be very serious. That is why infants are screened at birth for thyroid function, Dr. Kelly said. If left untreated, hypothyroidism in infants can lead to physical and mental developmental disabilities, including hearing loss. In older children and teens, it can also lead to delayed puberty and poor physical and mental development.
How is hypothyroidism treated?
Like hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism can be easily diagnosed with blood tests. Treatment requires the patient to take hormone supplements to make up for their deficit of thyroxine or, in rare cases, T3.
If you’re concerned about your energy levels, make an appointment with your doctor. They will determine if your thyroid is functioning properly and make sure you have the right energy levels for a healthy, active life.
This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. Would you like an appointment with Dr. Kelly? Call 704-295-3000. You can also request an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.
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