The Role of the Thyroid in Your Body

The Role of the Thyroid in Your Body

Did you know over 20 million Americans have been diagnosed with a thyroid condition? If you’ve been feeling more run-down than normal, have issues maintaining your weight, or other symptoms of thyroid disease, you could be one of them. 

Unfortunately, up to 60% of adults with thyroid disease don’t know they have a thyroid problem, which can affect many aspects of their health, including metabolism, cell function, breathing, and heart rate. 

At Jacksonville ENT Surgery, our board-certified ear-nose-throat (ENT) providers, Charles Greene, MD, PhD, and Tara Condrey, PA-C, work hand-in-hand with your endocrinologist to diagnose and treat different thyroid conditions.

Here’s a closer look at the role your thyroid gland plays, how it affects your health, and the different treatments available to help. 

What is the thyroid gland?

Your thyroid is a small gland located low on your neck, toward the front of your windpipe. This tiny butterfly-shaped gland plays a big role in regulating many body functions and your overall health. 

Your thyroid is part of your endocrine system, which comprises different glands throughout your body. Each gland in your endocrine system has different responsibilities. Taken together, your endocrine glands make hormones that control almost every bodily function. 

Your thyroid gland does many things, from regulating your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. However its main role is to control and regulate your metabolism, or breaking down and converting food into energy. 

To function correctly, your thyroid must absorb and use iodine. Humans don’t make iodine, so you need to consume it to be sure your thyroid gland gets enough to regulate your metabolism.

What is the link between my thyroid and my health?

There are many ways an issue with your thyroid gland affects your health. Most thyroid issues have their root in thyroid imbalance (producing too many or too few thyroid hormones). 

Thyroid imbalances mean your body doesn’t get the right amount of hormones it needs to function optimally. Here’s a look at the most common health conditions triggered by thyroid imbalances:

Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)

When your thyroid is overactive, it makes too many thyroid hormones. This causes a condition called hyperthyroidism. Different underlying conditions can cause hyperthyroidism. One of the most common is an autoimmune condition called Graves’ disease. Another common cause of hyperthyroidism is inflammation of your thyroid. 

Untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to serious health problems, including issues with your heart, bones, and muscles. For women, hyperthyroidism can mean trouble with your menstrual cycle and fertility, or even complications during pregnancy.

Symptoms of an overactive thyroid can include:

Hyperthyroidism can be treated with medications, radioactive iodine, or throat surgery.

Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)

An underactive thyroid, when your thyroid doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones, leads to a condition called hypothyroidism.

Having an underactive thyroid causes your body functions, including your metabolism, to slow down. It’s difficult to recognize the signs and symptoms of an underactive thyroid because they begin and progress slowly.

For example, with early hypothyroidism, you may feel a little more tired than usual. But as the disease progresses, other symptoms develop, including: 

When not treated, hypothyroidism can cause additional health concerns..

Other thyroid problems

One of the most common reasons patients are referred to an ENT is because of a lump or bump in their neck, which could be a goiter. Even if the lump is too small to protrude from your throat, swelling in your thyroid can lead to problems swallowing, coughing, breathing, snoring, or speaking. 

Some of the thyroid problems that can cause a goiter or other throat symptoms include:

Parathyroid diseases may also be the cause of your symptoms. Signs include tingling, cramps, irregular heartbeat, numbness, elevated blood calcium levels, and abnormal parathyroid hormone levels.

What’s the treatment for thyroid problems?

During your visit at Jacksonville ENT Surgery, our team will check the levels of your thyroid hormones and order any additional tests or imaging to confirm a diagnosis. Our team then works with you to create a customized treatment plan to address your thyroid disease. 

Treatments vary depending on diagnosis, but your plan may include:

To learn more about the role of your thyroid gland, schedule an appointment online or over the phone at the Jacksonville ENT Surgery location nearest you. 

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