Your thyroid gland is something you may not ever think about. As long as it’s functioning properly, it’s always working – making sure it produces the right amount of hormones necessary for all the cells in your body to work normally. However, when your thyroid gland malfunctions, the food you eat may not make the transition to energy that you need for all the processes that sustain your life.
So what exactly is your thyroid gland? It sits low in the front of the neck, just beneath the skin, and is not normally perceptible to the eye unless it is enlarged. It has a shield-like shape, made up of two lobes and a middle connecting segment (the isthmus). It constructs the thyroid hormones, which are then secreted into the blood to be transported to the rest of the body.
Thyroid gland problems are not uncommon, however. Symptoms come in three varieties – hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone), hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone), and abnormalities in the physical examination of the thyroid gland (lumpy and/or enlarged). Further evaluation usually leads to the successful treatment of the issue; the type of treatment depends on the underlying cause.
Patients with hyperthyroidism have a revved-up metabolism – they may feel jittery and anxious, heart and respiratory rates are inordinately high for the given activity level, and atrial fibrillation can sometimes occur. Excessive sweating and heat intolerance may appear, and while the patient’s appetite may be good, weight will decline. The skin will feel fine and velvety, hair will thin and become fine-textured, and sleep is difficult.
Those with hypothyroidism may have the opposite effect. Too little thyroid hormone causes metabolism to slow, and weight will go up. The skin becomes dry and rough, and hair coarsens and falls out. Heart rate and mental functions slow, while cholesterol rises. Lethargy and constipation often appear.
Abnormalities in the physical structure of the thyroid gland may be associated with either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, or no symptoms related to the hormone at all.
At Peoria ENT, we utilize a thyroid ultrasound imaging test to check the thyroid gland and/or parathyroid glands. Our doctors can diagnose either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism or physical abnormalities and provide you with a treatment plan to help get you back to feeling your best.