About 20 million Americans suffer from thyroid disease, yet about 60% don’t even know it. That’s because even though your thyroid gland plays an important role in your health and wellness, the initial signs of thyroid disease can be subtle, and often, those symptoms are misdiagnosed. What’s more, plenty of Americans don’t know where the thyroid is or what it does, so they don’t seek treatment.
As a leading provider of state-of-the-art thyroid surgery for tumors and other thyroid problems, the team at South Florida Surgical offers this quick review of thyroid function and disease symptoms, so people in Miami, Florida can learn to recognize the signs that could indicate a problem.
What your thyroid does
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that’s located right at the base of your neck, under your voicebox. The gland contains many tiny sacs or follicles, and each follicle produces hormones that are released as the body needs them. These hormones regulate your metabolism (how your body turns food into energy) and your growth, along with other important processes.
If the thyroid becomes too active, it releases hormones too quickly. This condition is called hyperthyroidism. Conversely, if the thyroid releases too few hormones, it’s called hypothyroidism.
The thyroid gland may also become enlarged, or lumps or nodules may form. These nodules are typically benign, but sometimes, they can be cancerous (malignant).
Symptoms of thyroid disease
Metabolism is a continual process in your body. It’s your metabolism that provides your cells with the energy they need for normal function. If your thyroid has a problem, it can have a direct effect on your metabolism, and that means it can cause symptoms in different parts of your body.
Initially, these symptoms can be so subtle you might not notice them. But as the disease progresses, the signs become more obvious and severe. What’s more, the symptoms you experience will vary, based on whether your thyroid is producing too many or too few hormones.
Hypothyroidism causes your metabolism to slow down. In this case, your symptoms may include:
- Weight gain
- Muscle weakness
- Dry skin
- Slower heart rate
- Muscle aches or joint pain
- Increased sensitivity to cold temperatures
Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, can cause these symptoms:
- Weight loss, even if your diet remains the same
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Increased feelings of hunger
- Increased anxiety or nervousness
- More frequent bowel movements
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Problems sleeping
- Very fine tremors in your hands or fingers
- Changes in menstrual patterns
Hyperthyroidism tends to become more common as you age.
Treating thyroid problems
Some thyroid problems can be treated with medication, but sometimes thyroid surgery is the best option, especially if you have a growth in or on your gland. If you have a growth, or if thyroid medication is not effective in controlling other symptoms, we use ultrasound to visualize the growth. You might also need a procedure called a biopsy to test for malignancy.
During a biopsy, our doctors use a very fine needle to remove a tiny amount of thyroid material for evaluation under a microscope. Biopsies can provide a lot of information about your thyroid, and they can also be used to detect cancer in thyroid growths.
If surgery is the best option for treating your thyroid problems, our team may recommend either a lobectomy or a thyroidectomy. A lobectomy removes a part of your thyroid gland, while a thyroidectomy removes the entire gland. You will need to take medication for the remainder of your life to provide the hormones your thyroid once did.
Find out what’s causing your thyroid symptoms
Thyroid function is typically evaluated through a simple blood test that may be given as part of your annual wellness exam. If you have symptoms of thyroid disease, or if your blood test indicates an issue with your thyroid, our team can help. Call South Florida Surgical Group at 305-279-9522, or use our online form to schedule a consultation today.