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What is the thyroid? What does it do?
The thyroid is the largest endocrine gland in the body. Located in the neck just above the collarbone, the thyroid controls metabolism.
What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce an adequate amount of thyroid hormones. This causes many bodily functions to slow down and over time can lead to obesity, joint pain, infertility and heart disease.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Cold feeling
- Pale, dry skin
- Puffy skin
- High cholesterol
- Unusual weight gain
- Muscle pain and/or weakness
- Painful or swollen joints
- Heavy menstrual periods
- Brittle fingernails and hair
- Slow thought process and reaction time
How is hypothyroidism treated?
Hypothyroidism can usually be treated through daily oral medication.
What is hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism, the opposite of hypothyroidism, occurs when the thyroid produces too many hormones.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Feeling jittery
- Rapid heartbeat
- Hot feeling
- Unexplained weight loss
- Frequent bowel movements
- Lighter menstrual periods
How is hyperthyroidism treated?
Hyperthyroidism is most commonly treated in one of two ways:
- Radioactive iodine ? This destroys part of the thyroid but does not affect other parts of the body. Most people only require one dose of radioactive iodine to correct this problem
- Antithyroid medication ? usually prescribed for people who display mild symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
What is Graves' Disease?
Graves’ Disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism.
A normal body produces a hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which controls the production of thyroid hormones. In a person with Graves’ Disease, the immune system releases antibodies that are similar to TSH. Because the thyroid is receiving incorrect signals, it begins to produce an overabundance of hormones.
What are thyroid nodules?
Thyroid nodules are an overgrowth of thyroid tissue. They usually feel like a lump in the throat. The majority of thyroid nodules are not cancerous. Treatment options depend on the size and type of nodule found in the patient.
What is thyroid cancer?
Thyroid cancer is a malignant tumor found on the thyroid gland. Most cases of thyroid cancer can be cured with treatment. The most common treatment is surgery, followed by thyroid hormone replacement therapy.
There are three types of thyroid cancer:
- Papillary and follicular thyroid cancer – this is the most common type of thyroid cancer. It forms in the cells that are responsible for the production and secretion of thyroid hormones, also known as the follicular cells. This type of cancer tends to grow slowly and if detected earlycan be treated successfully.
- Medullary thyroid cancer begins in C cells, which regulates blood calcium levels. Medullary thyroid cancer can metastasize to other areas of the body and is easier to treat if detected early.
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer is the least commonly occurring thyroid cancer. It also begins in the follicular cells, however the cells appear very abnormal and are often difficult to recognize. Anaplastic thyroid cancer is known to spread quickly and spread to other areas of the body.
Are there any risk factors associated with thyroid cancer?
Certain people are more predisposed to developing thyroid cancer than others.
Risk factors for developing thyroid cancer include:
- Family history
- Being female – women are two to three times more likely to develop thyroid cancer than men.
- Age – thyroid cancer is most likely to form in individuals over the age of 40.
- Race – Thyroid cancer is more commonly found in African American individuals.
- Insufficient levels of iodine in the diet.
- Previous exposure to high levels of radiation.
What are the symptoms of thyroid cancer?
Symptoms of thyroid cancer may include:
- The presence of a lump in the front of the neck near the Adam’s apple.
- Loss of voice or difficulty speaking.
- Swollen glands, especially in the neck.
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing.
- Pain or tenderness in the throat or neck.