Thyroid Diseases Q & A
What is the thyroid?
Your thyroid is at the bottom of your neck. It’s a small but critical part of your endocrine system and produces hormones that help regulate your body’s metabolism.
If your thyroid produces too many or too few hormones, it can result in thyroid dysfunction or disease. The team at Ally Endocrinology has extensive experience diagnosing and treating various thyroid-related health problems.
What are some common health problems that affect the thyroid?
The team at Ally Endocrinology treats a variety of problems that affect the thyroid, including:
Thyroid cancer causes the cells in your thyroid to divide uncontrollably and spread to the surrounding tissues. Thyroid cancer doesn’t always present symptoms at first, but as it progresses, it often causes pain or swelling in the neck.
Thyroid nodules are typically benign growths that form on your thyroid gland. They’re usually too small to feel or see but can grow over time. Thyroid nodules form for various reasons, but the two most common causes are Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and iodine deficiency.
If you have hyperthyroidism, your thyroid gland produces too many hormones. This condition affects about 1% of women and is much less common in men. Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include nervousness, irritability, and anxiety.
Hypothyroidism is a chronic condition that causes your thyroid gland to minimize its hormone output. That can lead to a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, including fatigue, dry skin, depression, and weight gain.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease that causes your body to attack and destroy your thyroid gland. Over time, this prevents the thyroid from producing enough hormones to regulate certain bodily functions. Symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are often subtle but typically worsen over time. Telltale signs include depression, fatigue, and constipation.
Grave’s disease is another autoimmune disease that causes your body to attack the thyroid gland. Grave’s disease is particularly common in women and tends to run in families. Common risk factors include pregnancy, stress, and smoking.
A goiter causes your thyroid gland to grow in size. Goiters can affect anyone, but they’re especially common in women who are over the age of 40. Small goiters typically don’t present symptoms. Large goiters cause visible swelling and may result in difficulty breathing or swallowing.
How is thyroid disease diagnosed?
To diagnose thyroid disease, the team at Ally Endocrinology conducts a physical exam, reviews your health history, and asks about your symptoms and lifestyle. They also order blood tests to determine how much hormone your thyroid produces.
Some of the most common blood tests used to diagnose thyroid problems include:
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
- T4 (thyroxine)
- FT4 (free T4 or free thyroxine)
- T3 (triiodothyronine)
- FT3 (free T3 or free triiodothyronine)
These blood tests can’t diagnose any specific thyroid disease, but they can provide information to your provider and guide further testing.
If blood tests don’t provide enough information, the team might recommend an on-site thyroid ultrasound or biopsy.