Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your throat. It secretes hormones that travel to every part of your body. When there’s a problem with your thyroid, you may experience a wide range of often subtle and seemingly unrelated symptoms.
At Integrative Medica, Dr. Jake Schmutz and Dr. Joshua Hersh are highly qualified naturopathic medical doctors serving the Salt Lake City, Utah area. Both have deep experience in recognizing, diagnosing, and treating thyroid issues. Often, patients don’t realize that thyroid conditions are easily treatable and their symptoms can be controlled.
Here are six common thyroid problems that can be treated successfully.
Hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid problem. When you have it, your thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones, and the processes that your thyroid controls begin to slow down. You may be cold all the time, you may feel depressed, your skin may feel dry, you may notice your hair thinning, and you may be constipated among other symptoms.
In the majority of cases, hypothyroidism can’t be cured, but it can be successfully treated so that your symptoms are resolved. Medication that returns your hormone levels to normal is widely available and very effective.
Hyperthyroidism is the opposite of hypothyroidism. When you have it, your thyroid produces too much hormone, and as you might expect, your bodily processes speed up. You may lose weight even though you’re eating the same amount, your heart rate may speed up, you may be hungry all the time, feel anxious, be more sensitive to heat, have trouble sleeping, or have more frequent bowel movements, among other symptoms.
There are a few ways to treat an overactive thyroid including radioactive iodine, which is taken by mouth and causes your thyroid gland to shrink. It usually takes several months to work and sometimes causes your thyroid to become underactive.
Anti-thyroid medications can prevent your thyroid from producing too much hormone. You may need to take them for a year or more, and they may solve your problem permanently or you may have a relapse.
For some people the best option is to remove the thyroid gland surgically. In this case, you’ll need to take medication to replace the hormone your thyroid would usually produce.
3. Thyroid cancer
Learning that you have cancer of any kind can be scary. Thyroid cancer is fairly rare, with fewer than 45,000 cases diagnosed each year. There are four types of thyroid cancer, and nearly 100% of people with three of the four types see it completely resolved with treatment.
Thyroid cancer is very treatable, and can usually be cured, particularly if it is detected early. When it can’t be cured, it can usually be prevented from growing or spreading.
The best treatment plan for thyroid cancer depends largely on the type, the stage, and your overall health. Some common treatments include:
- Radioactive iodine
- External beam radiation
- Targeted drug therapy
A goiter is an enlargement of your thyroid gland, and it can be a symptom of a different thyroid problem. For example, if you have hypothyroidism, your thyroid may get bigger. If you have thyroiditis (an inflamed thyroid) you may develop a goiter.
The best treatment for a goiter depends on the reason your thyroid gland is enlarged. Radioactive iodine, hormone therapy, and surgery are common treatments.
Thyroiditis is when your thyroid gland is swollen, and it usually causes either hypo- or hyperthyroidism. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition where your body mistakenly attacks your thyroid gland. Over time it produces less hormone and you have hypothyroidism.
De Quervain’s thyroiditis is a swollen thyroid caused by a virus. It may cause a fever, pain in your neck, jaw, or ear, and hyperthyroidism. It usually resolves in a few days.
Some women experience thyroiditis after giving birth, and may experience hyperthyroidism for a few weeks, followed by hypothyroidism. Most of the time, thyroid function normalizes within about a year.
6. Thyroid nodules
Thyroid nodules are small bumps or lumps on your thyroid gland. Most of the time thyroid nodules don’t cause symptoms, and even if a nodule is cancerous, it likely won’t cause abnormal levels of hormone. Scientists don’t know why nodules form, but they are very common.
As long as your nodules aren’t cancerous, the treatment recommendation is usually to watch and wait. We may recommend an ultrasound every 6-12 months to make sure it’s not growing or otherwise becoming problematic.
If you have questions about thyroid conditions, schedule an appointment at Integrative Medica today.