Thyroid Problems

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located at the base of the neck. They thyroid helps to regulate metabolism, body temperature, and the functioning of organs and muscles. If the thyroid is not functioning properly, it can over or under produce thyroid hormones causing imbalance in the body.


The thyroid produces thyroid hormone, which controls metabolism, body temperature, and muscle and organ function. Hyperthyroidism involves the overproduction of thyroid hormone, causing the body’s metabolism to become overactive. Some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Racing heart
  • Tremors
  • Shakiness
  • Anxiety
  • Over heating
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Insomnia

A blood test is used to diagnose hyperthyroidism. The causes of hyperthyroidism include Grave’s disease, which is the overproduction of thyroid hormone, growths on the thyroid, inflammation of the thyroid gland, thyroid cancer, or pituitary gland malfunction.


Hypothyroidism results when the thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone. This causes the body’s metabolism to become underactive. Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Low levels of energy
  • Dry brittle hair and nails
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Memory loss
  • Feeling cold most of the time
  • Heavy or irregular menstrual periods

A blood test is used to diagnose hypothyroidism. The causes of hypothyroidism include an underproduction of thyroid hormones (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), high amounts of iodine exposure, high lithium levels, and surgical removal of the thyroid gland.


A goiter is a swollen, enlarged thyroid gland. A goiter can develop due to thyroid nodules, hyperthyroidism, and Graves’ disease can all lead to the development of a goiter. Lack of iodine in the diet can also lead to the development of a goiter, however this is rarely a problem in the United States since iodine is added to salt. As a goiter enlarges, it can put pressure on the organs in the throat and cause symptoms such as:

  • Trouble swallowing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pressure in the neck
  • A choking sensation
  • A lump or mass in the neck

Multiple tests can be used to diagnose a goiter, including blood tests and imaging studies. If there are nodules present, sometimes a fine needle biopsy is needed to determine if the nodules are benign or malignant.

Thyroid Cancer

The thyroid is a gland in the front of the neck that is butterfly shaped and produces thyroid hormone, which regulates metabolism, body temperature, and the functioning of organs and muscles. When present, thyroid cancers are often found in nodules on the thyroid gland that can sometimes be felt or may show up on an imaging study. Thyroid cancer is diagnosed with tests including ultrasound, fine needle biopsy, nuclear medicine study, or CT scan. Many patients do not have symptoms, but it’s possible to have the following indicators:

  • Trouble swallowing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Feeling of a lump in the throat
  • Voice changes
  • Cough
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Weight loss

There are several types of thyroid cancer including:

Papillary- This slow growing form of thyroid cancer is the most common and has a good prognosis.

Follicular- This is the second most common form of thyroid cancer. It frequently invades vascular structures within the thyroid (veins and arteries). It is more common in older people and generally has a good prognosis.

Medullary- This is a less common form of thyroid cancer that originates from the parafollicular cells of the thyroid. It almost never causes thyroid dysfunction (hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism) and is usually found when a lump in the throat or neck is noticed by a patient or doctor. The prognosis of medullary thyroid cancer is not as good as it is with the papillary or follicular forms, but it is more curable than anaplastic thyroid cancer.

Anaplastic- This is the least common form of thyroid cancer which usually occurs in patients over the age of sixty. It progresses quickly, presenting as a rapidly growing neck mass. It is one of the fastest growing and most aggressive of all cancers. 

Most thyroid cancers progress slowly and respond well to treatment which may include surgery, radioactive iodine, radiation, and/or chemotherapy.

If you think you have a problem with your thyroid, please contact our office and schedule an appointment with one of our otolaryngologists.

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