What does a small gland located at the base of your neck have to do with your overall health? Quite a bit actually. Your thyroid gland is responsible for regulating many of your body’s important metabolic functions, which means that when it’s not functioning properly, the effects can be drastic.
The ENT specialists at ENT of New Orleans, with offices in New Orleans and Marrero, Louisiana, are here to help explain what your thyroid does and how to recognize when your thyroid has problems.
As part of your body’s endocrine system, your thyroid is responsible for making the hormones that regulate your metabolism, growth and development, body temperature, and brain development. As you can imagine, throwing off these essential processes by speeding them up or slowing them down can have immediate and long-term effects.
Problems arise when your thyroid produces too much or too little of your thyroid hormones. This leads to one of two types of thyroid conditions: hyperthyroidism (overproducing thyroid hormones) or hypothyroidism (not producing enough thyroid hormones).
When your thyroid gland is overactive, your metabolic processes are sped up at an unnatural rate. When your body is working too hard, you can start to notice physical effects as well as mental and emotional ones. Hyperthyroidism is commonly associated with symptoms, such as:
On the other hand, when your thyroid is underactive and produces too few hormones, you can experience many of the opposite symptoms. These include:
There are a number of potential causes for thyroid problems. Three of the most prominent ones are the following:
About 70% of people with hyperthyroidism have Graves’ disease. With this condition, your hyperactive immune system creates antibodies (thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins) that attach themselves to healthy thyroid cells, forcing them to overproduce hormones.
Since these antibodies interfere with normal hormone production, the natural mechanisms that would typically keep your thyroid hormones in check are not activated.
Hypothyroidism is often caused by Hashimoto’s disease. This condition, which affects about 14 million people in the United States, causes your immune system to attack healthy thyroid tissue instead of protect it. Over time, your thyroid is weakened and can no longer produce enough hormones.
Middle-aged women are more prone to develop this condition compared to those in other demographics.
Nodules can also form on your thyroid gland and, while 90% of nodules are benign, they can be cancerous in rare cases. If your provider detects a thyroid nodule during your physical exam, they’ll order a biopsy to check if it’s cancerous, in addition to running diagnostic tests to see if you might have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
The exact cause of thyroid nodules is still unknown. What we do know is that some thyroid nodules are capable of producing thyroid hormones, which can create an influx of extra hormones (or hyperthyroidism). Having Hashimoto’s disease can also put you at higher risk for developing thyroid nodules.
When you come to ENT of New Orleans, one of our specialists will ask you about your symptoms and health history and conduct a physical exam to look for any unusual neck or thyroid masses.
We offer a comprehensive set of diagnostic services for identifying thyroid conditions, but our providers may also recommend an MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound to get a clearer understanding of your condition.
Based on this information, your provider will develop a personalized treatment plan for you, which may include:
If you think you may have thyroid trouble, we can help identify the cause of your symptoms and treat it. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with ENT of New Orleans today.