That tiny butterfly-shaped thyroid gland at the front of your neck and the four pea-sized parathyroid glands beside it shoulder big responsibilities for your physical and mental health. More than 20 million Americans suffer from thyroid disease, according to the American Thyroid Association (ATA). Dr. Terry Baker and his experienced staff can determine if you have a thyroid imbalance and help you manage it when you do.
What exactly does the thyroid do?
The two-inch-long thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system that controls your metabolism. It affects your breathing, energy, even how quickly your heart beats. It also regulates body temperature and monthly menstrual cycles, and it helps create energy from the food you eat. The parathyroid glands produce a hormone that regulates calcium in your body.
When good glands go wrong
Sometimes, your thyroid produces too much or too little hormone. Or it enlarges and forms lumps. Common thyroid problems include:
- Hyperthyroidism. When your thyroid becomes overactive, your heart races and you may feel weak or irritable.
- Hypothyroidism. If your thyroid fails to create sufficient hormones, your metabolism slows down. You begin to feel depressed and sluggish. It may be hard to lose weight.
- Goiter. A lack of iodine in your diet or excessive inflammation from a thyroid-related autoimmune disease can cause your thyroid to enlarge, producing a goiter in your neck.
- Nodules. Your thyroid gland may make too much hormone, which can produce tiny lumps in your neck. These may be cancerous or benign.
- Autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease triggers the body to wage war upon its own healthy cells. Graves and Hashimoto’s diseases specifically target the thyroid gland. Graves disease produces an overactive thyroid, while Hashimoto’s disease, the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States, creates chronic inflammation as antibodies attack healthy thyroid cells. These occur most frequently in middle-aged women, but they can affect anyone.
A clear link between mind and body
Research into the mind/body connection showed that patients with anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric disorders often possessed abnormal blood levels of thyroid hormone. Oftentimes, common psychological problems parallel physical disorders, as well. These include:
- Depression. Pharmaceutical or glandular thyroid hormones have been shown to speed recovery in depressed patients, even when they are not clinically diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
- Hyperactivity. When your thyroid produces too much hormone, your body utilizes energy faster than it should. This condition is known as hyperthyroidism, and it can cause manic or hyperactive behavior.
- Bipolar disorder. Bipolar patients may also possess thyroid problems. Lithium, a drug commonly used for this disorder, can cause low thyroid levels.
- Postpartum depression (PPD). PPD has been found in patients with postpartum thyroid disease, which causes a woman’s thyroid to grow inflamed after childbirth. Women testing positive for thyroid antibodies are also at increased risk of developing PDD.
Look out for symptoms of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), including:
- Unusual nervousness
- Unexplained weight loss
Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can cause:
- Mild to severe fatigue
- Weight gain
- Increased sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
- Dry skin
Treating your thyroid conditions
Thyroid disease can affect your mood, causing such psychological disorders as anxiety or depression. Dr. Baker and his compassionate team treat your thyroid disease, which may also provide relief from any related emotional symptoms. Depending upon your particular thyroid issues, Dr. Baker and his colleagues can help manage your health through:
- Radioactive iodine
- Thyroid surgery
If you suspect you may have a thyroid imbalance or have any questions for Dr. Baker about your thyroid or other ear, nose, and throat problems, give us a call at (208) 552-9530 today.