If you’ve just found out that you have a thyroid disorder, then you’re not alone. Approximately 20 million Americans suffer from some type of thyroid disorder. And women are much more likely to develop thyroid disorders than men, with about one in eight women developing a thyroid disorder at one point in their lifetime.
At his practice in Sioux Falls, Idaho, otolaryngologist Terry Baker, MD specializes in treating conditions like thyroid disorders. That’s why he’s compiled this helpful guide on how your thyroid and parathyroid glands work.
How your thyroid and parathyroid glands work
Your thyroid is a gland that rests at the front base of your neck, about where your collarbone is located. The thyroid functions by producing thyroid hormones that influence your metabolism, growth, development, and body temperature.
Your parathyroid glands, which lie directly behind the base of your thyroid, are responsible for balancing the proper levels of calcium in your bloodstream and tissues. These glands are each about the size of a grain of rice.
What happens when your parathyroid glands malfunction?
When your parathyroid glands aren’t functioning properly, they end up overproducing parathyroid hormones. When this happens, you develop hyperparathyroidism. This is a very specific condition where your body can’t process calcium properly.
Symptoms of hyperparathyroidism are usually the result of damage caused by high levels of calcium in your body. Ranging from the mild to the severe, symptoms include:
- Cognitive impairment
- Frequent urination
- Bone and joint pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Acute abdominal pain
You’re more at risk for developing hyperparathyroidism if you’re a woman who has experienced menopause. Those with a vitamin D or severe calcium deficiency are also at a higher risk. Patients who’ve been exposed to radiation therapy or the drug lithium are also in the high risk category for developing the condition.
Treatments for thyroid disorders
There are a couple of different ways to treat a thyroid condition, including:
- Thyroid surgery – Dr. Baker either partially or completely removes your thyroid in a thyroidectomy.
- Antithyroid Medication – These are drugs that are prescribed to slow the overproduction of thyroid hormones.
- Radioactive iodine – In low doses, iodine with radioactive therapy has been shown to effectively stop an overactive gland.
- External radiation – Over the course of several treatments, we direct a beam of radiation at your thyroid to help kill cancerous cells.
- Thyroid hormone pills – This medication replaces thyroid hormones if your thyroid is under producing hormones. These are usually used to treat hypothyroidism and are effective in preventing thyroid cancer from returning after treatment.
For more information on thyroid disorders, contact Dr. Baker’s practice by calling 208-225-4408 to make an appointment.