Thyroid disease affects more than 30 million Americans

Aleksander SmithFor being so small the thyroid – a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck – plays a huge role in how a body works.

“Just about every tissue in the body is affected or regulated by thyroid hormone,” said Aleksander Smith, M.D., a physician with HMH Medical Group Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT). “It is very important to regulating metabolism, and is vital to the body’s overall health.”

January is Thyroid Awareness Month, and HMH wants ensure our service area knows the significance of the thyroid and signs and symptoms of a malfunctioning thyroid. Both Smith and Jerry Fikhman, M.D. of HMH’s ENT services treat all medical issues from the neck up, including thyroid conditions.

“Thyroid disease is more common than heart disease or diabetes, affecting more than 30 million people in the United States,” Smith said.

The thyroid produces thyroid hormone, which stimulates cells to perform a certain function and meet a body’s needs. When something goes wrong, either too much or too little thyroid hormone is produced.

If too much thyroid hormone is produced, the result is hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid. Possible symptoms include weight loss, racing pulse, sensitivity to heat, irritability, nervousness and trouble sleeping. The thyroid may enlarge, causing a goiter (an enlargement in the thyroid) to develop.

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone to meet the body’s demands. Possible symptoms include weight gain, tiredness, depression and sensitivity to cold. A goiter also can develop with hypothyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are usually an indication of an underlying thyroid disease, such as Graves Disease or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Thyroid disease is hereditary, so if there is a family history and symptoms are present, contact your doctor for an evaluation.

For more information on the thyroid and thyroid disorders, contact your family care provider or HMH Ear, Nose or Throat.

You can also learn more about the thyroid at The Thyroid Gland and Disorders of the Thyroid.