Information about the thyroid and parathyroid glands
About the thyroid
The thyroid gland is a soft, butterfly shaped gland that lies wrapped around the windpipe below the larynx. The normal gland is a small gland that wraps around the trachea or windpipe. The job of the thyroid is to convert iodine from the diet into hormones. These hormones help regulate metabolism. The hormone levels control most of your body’s functions including temperature, heart rate and growth.
Around 5% of the population worldwide have a goitre or benign enlargement and up to 50% of the elderly population have a solitary nodule. Most nodules are benign, but some may produce excess hormone and others may be tumours.
Those people who have received radiation treatment to the head and neck regions for conditions such as acne, thymus enlargement, recurrent tonsillitis, chronic ear infections and birthmarks are at a greater risk for cancer.
Symptoms from an underactive gland include:
- fatigue, exhaustion
- feeling run down and sluggish
- difficulty concentrating, brain fog
- unexplained or excessive weight gain
- dry, coarse and/or itchy skin
- dry, coarse and/or thinning hair
- feeling cold, especially in the hands and feet
- muscle cramps
- increased menstrual flow and more frequent periods
Symptoms from an overactive gland include:
- increased perspiration
- thinning of your skin
- fine brittle hair
- muscular weakness especially involving the upper arms and thighs
- shaky hands
- panic disorder
- racing heart
- more frequent bowel movements
- weight loss despite a good appetite
- lighter flow, less frequent menstrual periods
The initial evaluation for patients with nodules should include a medical history, physical examination and blood tests. Toxic (hyperfunctioning) nodules are rarely malignant and require a radionuclide scan for assessment. Nodules in patients with normal gland function require fine needle biopsy which provides specific information about the nature of the nodule. Patients with atypical fine needle biopsy have up to a 20% risk of malignancy and require appropriate surgery. The key issue for patients with nodules is whether surgery is required to remove the nodule for accurate diagnosis by pathology.
Thyroid surgery by an ENT – head and neck surgeon
- ENT – head and neck surgeons can provide a complete evaluation and treatment options regarding thyroid problems
- An ENT specialist can receive up to 15 years of university and post-graduate training in surgery, concentrating on ear, nose and throat procedures
- Because they study the complex anatomy, physiology, and pathology of the entire head and neck, ENT specialists are uniquely qualified to perform the procedures that affect the thyroid gland
For more information, Click here.