We know: All About Thyroid Problems

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland situated in the front of the neck, just above the collarbone.

What does it control?

The thyroid gland is responsible for producing thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which controls metabolism, cellular differentiation, and growth. Basically, the thyroid keeps all bodily functions running at a steady rate.

What are common problems associated with the thyroid?

  • Hypothyroidism - this condition occurs when the thyroid produces too little TSH hormone. Common symptoms include such things as unexplained weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, muscle aches, depression, constipation, dry skin, and a puffy face.
  • Hyperthyroidism - occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much TSH. Symptoms include unexplained weight loss, anxiety, heart palpitations, diarrhea, fatigue, and eye problems.
  • Thyroid nodules - A thyroid nodule is an abnormal growth of tissue on the thyroid. Many times, thyroid nodules produce no symptoms and only appear as a small lump in the throat. On rare occasions, larger nodules may cause pain or difficulty swallowing.
  • Air pollution and high humidity
  • Thyroid cancer - Occurs more often in females and in people over age 30. Symptoms sometimes include neck pain, enlarged lymph nodes, and hoarseness. Thyroid nodules are often a sign of thyroid cancer, and should be checked.

How are thyroid problems treated?

Hypothyroidism is generally treated with thyroid hormone replacement pills that are taken daily. Patients suffering from hyperthyroidism may be treated with anti-thyroid drugs, radioactive iodine therapy, or removal of the thyroid gland, followed by thyroid hormone replacement pills.

Thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer may involve a combination of treatments, including surgery to remove the nodule and part (or all) of the thyroid itself, chemotherapy to get rid of cancerous cells, and thyroid replacement hormone pills.

Are there any tests to detect a thyroid problem?

A simple blood test can be given to measure levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). If there is a nodule, a biopsy may be performed to determine if the nodule is cancerous.

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