As Board Certified Endocrinologists, we have particular expertise in treating thyroid disease. Individuals may present with different symptoms, including thyroid nodules and/or signs of underactive or overactive function. It is our job to do the investigative work necessary to understand each person’s thyroid function, and how it may be supported.
What is Thyroid Disease?
Thyroid disease is a category of conditions that occur due to abnormal function of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland sits just below the Adam’s apple on the neck. It is small but integral to several physiological processes, including metabolism and heartbeat. People diagnosed with some form of thyroid disease either make too much or too little thyroid hormone. As a result, they may experience symptoms such as poor heat regulation in the body, weight gain or difficulty gaining weight, and irregular heartbeat.
Nodules may also develop on or around the thyroid gland. In many cases, the presence of nodules does not indicate thyroid cancer. However, it is necessary to consult with an experienced endocrinologist to have nodules evaluated to rule this out.
How Often Should Thyroid Levels be Checked?
Several years ago, the American College of Physicians recommended that all women over the age of 50 get thyroid testing once or more every 5 years. However, because people of all ages can be affected by thyroid disease, testing may take place far sooner than that.
Hypothyroidism is one of the leading concerns related to the thyroid gland. This condition is characterized by too little thyroid hormone and symptoms such as lack of energy and weight gain. People with a low-functioning thyroid may have problems with depression, as well.
Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, is the condition in which too much hormone is sent into the body, revving it up to a point where the heart races and the hands tremble. A hard-working thyroid may make it difficult for a person to fall asleep and may instigate a problem with anxiety.
Anytime symptoms of a thyroid problem exist, there is a good reason for testing.
Thyroid Disease Tests
After a comprehensive history and physical exam, our physicians set up an appropriate testing schedule depending on the type of thyroid disease suspected. This will include lab tests and thyroid function tests, not only including the Ultrasensitive TSH but also T3 and T4 testing. In addition, autoimmune testing to detect thyroid antibodies (Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease), which may have initiated the disease in the first place.
We offer a full range of diagnostic testing at our office including:
Does an Enlarged Thyroid Hurt?
The thyroid gland may become enlarged for a number of reasons. This condition is often referred to as a goiter. The presence of swelling does not necessarily indicate thyroid cancer, nor does it mean you have either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Either of those abnormalities may coincide with enlargement of the thyroid gland.
Typically, enlargement is not associated with pain. However, the development of thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid gland, would be an exception. Swelling of the thyroid should be assessed by your endocrinologist.
Thyroid Disease Prevention
Certain foods can inhibit the adequate release of thyroid hormone and should be avoided. Individuals with Hashimoto’s disease should not eat gluten, and anyone who wants a better-performing thyroid will want to significantly limit their consumption of products with soy protein isolate. This includes protein shakes and soy “meats” and “cheese.”
Are Thyroid Problems Hereditary?
Thyroid disease is sometimes related to an underlying autoimmune condition. Data suggests that individuals who have either thyroid disease or any autoimmune condition in their family history are at risk for thyroid disease themselves.
Hypothyroidism has been associated with a number of complications. These include:
- Mild forms of depression.
- Cold sensitivity.
- Elevated levels of bad cholesterol (LDL).
- Extremely low thyroid levels have been linked to infertility.
- Enlargement of the thyroid gland, or goiter.
Hyperthyroidism causes the body to be in overdrive more often than not. As a result, it may cause complications such as:
- Heart arrhythmia.
- Enlargement of the heart cavities called cardiac dilation.
Our treatment of thyroid disease is individualized. Some patients with fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, or other signs may still have normal thyroid function testing but already test positive for Hashimoto’s antibodies. Specific diet and nutritional recommendations and thyroid medications are used in treatment, depending on the clinical situation. As thyroid disease is often nuanced, we take the time and care to listen closely to the concerns of our patients to find an underlying reason and treatment of the condition.