Thyroid disease encompasses a lot of conditions that affect the thyroid gland, which is located just underneath the skin in the front of the neck. It is a gland that produces hormones that control several bodily functions. Thyroid disease can encompass an underfunctioning thyroid — we call that hypothyroidism. An overfunctioning thyroid — we call that hyperthyroidism.
Thyroid disease can involve growths that occur on the thyroid, cancer of the thyroid gland and other possibilities as well.
It can be difficult to know from an individual patient's standpoint if one has a thyroid issue for a couple of reasons.
Some patients may not experience any symptoms at all and may just have a condition that's picked up on routine lab work that their physician might order. Or their physician might feel something structurally on their thyroid gland that they might not be aware of. Or patients may start to feel sluggish, weak and achy. They might start to experience cold or heat intolerance, depending on if the thyroid is underfunctioning or overfunctioning.
They might start to notice a growth in the front of their neck. But some of these symptoms can be very non-specific and can also be symptoms of other unrelated conditions.
So if there is a concern, or if a patient has a family history, thus making them more susceptible to thyroid disease as well, it's important for them to see their physician and get the proper blood work performed so that an answer can be provided.
Because thyroid disease encompasses so many possibilities, there are numerous treatments that can be provided. There are medications for underactive, as well as overactive thyroid. Sometimes if thyroid cancer is present, or if growths on the thyroid are present, a biopsy, surgery or radiation treatments may be indicated. Or sometimes no treatment is needed at all. Many conditions afflicting the thyroid that are mild often will get better on their own and require no therapy whatsoever, but rather simply monitoring over time to make sure that it's not progressing.