Proper Thyroid Gland Function is Critical for Good Health
It is hard to believe that a small butterfly-shaped neck gland of only twelve to fifteen millimeters in length in the front of the neck, would produce powerful metabolism regulating hormones in the body. Proper thyroid gland function is critical to our health and wellness.
Sometimes the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones which may cause weight gain, memory loss, hair loss, cold intolerance, fatigue, constipation, brain fog and chronic pain. Those at risk for this condition, called hypothyroidism, are people with stressful lifestyles, women older than 30, or women who are pregnant or experiencing menopause. Another thyroid disorder, hyperthyroidism, is the result of high thyroid hormone levels. It causes weight loss, restlessness, anxiety, frequent bowel movements, heart palpitations, irregular menstrual cycles in women, sleeping difficulty and protruding eyes.
Once people are properly diagnosed with any thyroid condition, it can easily be corrected. In many cases, physicians will not perform all of the right tests to determine proper thyroid gland function. Most doctors will only order a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test. This test may be unreliable in indicating thyroid levels. The Endocrine Society and the American Thyroid Association report that a TSH test alone is not reliable to screen for thyroid disease. For that reason, many patients are not diagnosed correctly. Anyone with symptoms of either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, should find a doctor who will take the time to conduct more tests. It is best to go to an Endocrinologist who has been specifically trained to analyze thyroid gland function and to clinically diagnose diseases of that gland. They are also the experts at regulating the thyroid. Hypothyroidism is diagnosed with TSH tests, TRH tests, antibody screening, thyroid scan or an MRI. It is treated with T3 or T4 replacement hormone therapy. Hyperthyroidism is diagnosed by TSH tests, thyroid scan and blood tests. It is treated with radioactive iodine, hormone treatment and anti-thyroid drugs or surgery.
The thyroid can also become cancerous. Common symptoms are a nodule in the middle of the neck, pain, voice hoarseness, difficulty speaking or swallowing, labored breathing and swollen lymph nodes. Not all nodules or swellings are cancerous. This condition is called a goiter. A non-cancerous goiter can often shrink with hormone therapy. Thyroid cancer is slow growing and can be detected with blood tests, ultrasonography and biopsy. The treatment is surgery, radioactive iodine, hormone treatment, external radiation and chemotherapy. The success rate is excellent. Thanks to modern medicine, a person can live an active healthy life without their thyroid.
An educated patient is the key to determining their own proper thyroid gland function. Anyone with any of the above mentioned symptoms should get tested, even if it takes getting a second medical opinion.