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Understanding Your Thyroid
By: H.N. Nagaraja, M.D.
Understanding exactly how a thyroid functions can be somewhat complex. We’ve heard of over-active and under-active thyroids, but what does it all mean?
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck. The thyroid fits around the esophagus and windpipe, contains a gel-like substance and is surrounded by a single layer of cells. The thyroid gland produces several hormones that help regulate growth, metabolism and energy levels.
Thyroid problems are common. However, most of the time, symptoms will appear gradually over time. This makes it easier for symptoms to be misdiagnosed. Two common thyroid problems are overactive thyroid and underactive thyroid.
Thyroid overactivity – also called Hyperthyroidism – results in an abundance of hormones caused by overstimulation by the body’s immune system. This can produce jitteriness/shaking/nervousness, sweating, palpitations, weight loss, insomnia, hyperactivity, fatigue, tremors, and anxiety. The most common cause of Hyperthyroidism is a condition called Grave's disease.
Thyroid underactivity – also called Hypothyroidism – is an equally severe problem. In this condition, the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland. This results in a variety of symptoms including fatigue or lack of energy, weight gain, feeling cold, dry, scaly skin and hair, heavy menstrual periods (women), forgetfulness, constipation, a lower pulse rate, and slower reflexes.
An endocrinologist can perform certain tests to measure the amount of hormones in the blood, which may indicate a malfunctioning thyroid. Once the diagnosis is made, the doctor can typically prescribe medications to help correct the condition(s).
Dr. Nagaraja is board certified in Endocrinology/Metabolism and Internal Medicine. He has a special interest in thyroid conditions and offers extensive thyroid medical services, including thyroid evaluation, thyroid ultrasound, ultrasound fine needle aspiration biopsy of thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer follow up. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Noblesville Diabetes & Endocrinology at (317) 776-3520.