Patients with thyroid conditions often have problems with their energy levels. They may also have problems with muscle strength, emotions, weight control, and tolerating heat or cold. Endocrinologists treat patients with too much or too little thyroid hormone (conditions respectively caused by either an overactive or underactive thyroid). They help patients reach a hormone balance by replacing or blocking thyroid hormone. Endocrinologists also receive special training to manage patients with thyroid nodules or thyroid cancer, and enlarged thyroid glands.
More than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime.
- An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease.
- Up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.
- Women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems.
- One woman in eight will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime.
- Most thyroid cancers respond to treatment, although a small percentage can be very aggressive.
- The causes of thyroid problems are largely unknown.
- Undiagnosed thyroid disease may put patients at risk for certain serious conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and infertility.
- Pregnant women with undiagnosed or inadequately treated hypothyroidism have an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm delivery, and severe developmental problems in their children.
- Most thyroid diseases are life-long conditions that can be managed with medical attention.
The thyroid is a hormone-producing gland that regulates the body's metabolism—the rate at which the body produces energy from nutrients and oxygen—and affects critical body functions, such as energy level and heart rate.
- The thyroid gland is located in the middle of the lower neck.
- Although the thyroid gland is relatively small, it produces a hormone that influences every cell, tissue and organ in the body.
- Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Symptoms include extreme fatigue, depression, forgetfulness, and some weight gain.
- Hashimoto's disease is the most common form of hypothyroidism.
- Hyperthyroidism, another form of thyroid disease, is a condition causing the gland to produce too much thyroid hormone. Symptoms include irritability, nervousness, muscle weakness, unexplained weight loss, sleep disturbances, vision problems and eye irritation.
- Graves’ disease is a type of hyperthyroidism; it is an autoimmune disorder that is genetic and estimated to affect one percent of the population.
Treatment of Thyroid Disease
Treatment of thyroid disease must be individualized for each patient. There are a variety of options available for treating hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Treatment of hypothyroidism means replacing missing thyroid hormone(s) and monitoring with blood tests and symptoms. Treatment options for hypothyroidism include:
- Branded levothyroxine (Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid)
- Generic levothyroxine
- Desiccated Porcine Thyroid (Armour, Nature-Throid, custom compounded products)
- Compounded Thyroid hormone (T4 with or without T3)
- Cytomel (Liothyronine)
There is no "one size fits all" treatment. Discuss your options with your physician. Each time your thyroid medication is changed it takes 6-8 weeks for your hormone levels to stabilize. Most endocrinologists will order thyroid blood tests at this time interval and make dose adjustments based on both your symptoms and your hormone levels. Many patients have symptoms despite normal thyroid blood tests, therefore, your physician may change your medication even if your blood tests are normal.
See Your Physician
If you have a thyroid problem, it is important to see your physician regularly. It's vital to keep your thyroid hormone levels in the normal range. Too much or too little can cause symptoms and can lead to long term problems including weight gain, depression, heart disease and bone loss. Having thyroid disease increases your risk for a variety of medical problems including:
- Thyroid Cancer
- Addison's Disease (Underactive Adrenal Gland)
- Vitamin B12 Deficiency (Pernicious Anemia)
- Premature Menopause
- Low Testosterone (men)
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Autoimmune Hepatitis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Many other conditions...