The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits low on the front of your neck, below the Adam’s apple. The thyroid has two lobes that sit on either side of your windpipe, connected by an isthmus (bridge), that gives it the butterfly shape. The thyroid is part of the endocrine system and is responsible for secreting several important hormones. Thyroid hormones, including thyroxine and triiodothyronine, have many effects throughout the body, including metabolism, growth and development, and body temperature. The thyroid’s hormones regulate breathing, heart rate, body weight, muscle strength, menstruation, body temperature, and cholesterol, among other things.
There are several conditions that cause the thyroid to operate inefficiently. Some of these include:
Goiter is the general swelling of the thyroid gland that can be caused by an iodine deficiency, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, thyroid nodules, or cancer. This abnormal swelling of the thyroid gland can cause symptoms or may just cause discomfort caused by the swelling. Goiters can occur on one or both sides of the thyroid gland. Some goiters do not require treatment and may resolve on their own, while others may require medication or surgery.
Thyroiditis is a general term for inflammation of the thyroid. This may be caused by an infection, an autoimmune condition, certain medications, or postpartum. Thyroiditis may present with symptoms or may be painful.
Hyperthyroidism is the condition where excessive amounts of thyroid hormones are produced. This may be caused by Grave’s disease or an overactive thyroid. The excess of thyroid hormones speeds up many of the bodily functions that the thyroid is responsible for. You may notice unintentional weight loss, hunger, rapid heart rate, anxiety or irritability, insomnia, sweating, feeling hot, diarrhea, and bulging of the eyes. Some medications can help reduce thyroid hormone production, or some extreme cases may require surgical intervention.
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to produce an overabundance of thyroid hormones. The hallmark symptom of Graves’ disease is bulging eyes, but other symptoms include those of hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is caused by the lack of thyroid hormones and may be caused by an underactive thyroid, thyroid cancer, or may be the result of thyroid removal. Hypothyroidism slows down the functions that the thyroid is responsible for. This may cause constipation, feeling cold, unexplained weight gain, feel sad or depressed, fatigue, pale skin, thinning hair, slow heart rate, or a puffy face. Hypothyroidism is treated with synthetic hormones.
Thyroid cancer is cancer of the tissues of the thyroid gland. Cancer may cause hypothyroidism and a nodule. Thyroid cancer is a fairly uncommon cancer and has relatively high treatment success rates. Thyroid cancer may be treated with hormone treatment, radiation, or surgery.
Symptoms of Thyroid Disorders
The different thyroid disorders can cause a variety of symptoms, but there are some symptoms that would steer the thinking toward your thyroid. Some common thyroid-related symptoms include:
- Feeling down, tired, or irritable
- Muscle or joint pain or weakness
- Dry, thinning hair
- Unexplained weight loss or weight gain that you cannot self-correct
- Changes in menstrual periods — lighter, heavier, or abnormal
- Feeling hot or cold when others don’t
- Trouble sleeping
- Unexplained nervousness or anxiety
- Changes in your eyes — bulging, redness, or irritation
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Hoarse voice
- Swollen or puffy face
- Bump on neck
A thyroidectomy is the surgical removal of all or part of the thyroid gland. A thyroidectomy is not typically the first course of action, but may be used as a treatment for disorders including cancer, large goiters that aren’t resolved by other means, or overactive thyroid. How much and what portion of the thyroid that is removed during the thyroidectomy depends on what condition is being treated. For instance, to treat hyperthyroidism, typically just a portion of the thyroid is removed. Thyroid surgeons will attempt to remove just the goiter and the tissue affected, while protecting the integrity of the remaining thyroid. Thyroidectomies performed to treat thyroid cancer may cause the removal of more or all of the thyroid.
A thyroidectomy is performed under general anesthesia through an incision low on the center of your neck. Generally, lymph nodes around the thyroid will also be removed in the event of cancer. Removal of a portion or all of your thyroid and the surrounding lymph nodes, the total surgical time is generally less than two hours. Depending on how the surgery goes, you may go home later the same day, or you might spend the night in the hospital and go home the next day. You will likely be able to resume eating and drinking as normal right away. If you experience a sore throat or hoarse voice for a few days afterward, it is due to the breathing tube and swelling around the vocal cords and is not permanent.
Each person has four parathyroid glands located behind the thyroid gland at the base of the neck. The parathyroid controls the amount of calcium in the blood, which regulates the electrical system of the body. Hyperparathyroidism is a side effect of parathyroid tumors and can cause a host of symptoms. The most common cause of parathyroid problems are tumors. It is estimated that 1out of every 50 people will develop a tumor in their parathyroid gland. The treatment for hyperparathyroidism or parathyroid tumors is surgical removal of the tumor.
Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery at Alpine ENT
Alpine ENT is proud to staff some of Northern Colorado’s best and most passionate thyroid and parathyroid specialists. If you or your primary care physician suspects an issue with your thyroid or parathyroid, contact us to schedule an evaluation with Dr. Sarvjit Gill, Dr. Christopher Eriksen, Dr. Matt Robertson, Dr. Stephen Wold, in Loveland, Fort Collins, or Cheyenne.