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Friday, June 23, 2017

Your Thyroid: How It Affects Your Health

According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), approximately 27 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Left unchecked, thyroid disease can cause many problems including heart damage, vision damage and even death. Tanja Gunsberger, D.O., general surgeon on the medical staff at St. Luke’s Medical Center and Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital, explains the signs, symptoms and treatment of thyroid disease.

Q: What is the thyroid gland?
A: The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck just below the voice box (larynx). Its function is to produce the hormones that manage metabolism, control the body’s temperature and heart rate, and regulate the amount of calcium in the blood.

Q: Who is at risk for thyroid disease?
A: Women are at greater risk than men. According to the AACE, more than eight out of 10 people with thyroid disease are women. Diabetes and family history are also risk factors.

Q: What are the symptoms of thyroid disease?
A: The three most common thyroid diseases are: hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism and nodules. Hyperthyroidism functions much like a gas pedal that is stuck. People suffering from hyperthyroidism can experience heart palpations, fatigue, anxiety, hair loss, muscle soreness and vision problems. Hypothyroidism occurs when the patient’s metabolism slows down too much. People suffering from hypothyroidism may experience weight gain, fatigue, muscle pain, and damaged hair and nails. Nodules are lumps on the thyroid gland. People who have nodules may be able to feel them with their fingers or could have a feeling of pressure in their throat.

Q: How is thyroid disease diagnosed?
A: Usually, the patient will go to their primary care physician because of the unpleasantness of the symptoms. Almost all primary care physicians screen for thyroid disease as part of a routine physical. Thyroid diseases such as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are easily diagnosed with a simple blood test. Nodules greater than the size of a dime should be evaluated with an ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration(FNA) to determine the tissue type.

Q: Are thyroid nodules cancerous?
A: Thyroid nodules are mainly benign, however they can sometimes indicate cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, there were approximately 33,550 cases of thyroid cancer in 2008 in the US.

Q: What are the treatments for thyroid disease?
A: Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can be treated with medication. For some patients with these diseases, the best treatment option may be surgery. A portion of the thyroid gland is removed and these patients may be able to avoid thyroid hormone replacement medication. Generally, treatment for thyroid cancer involves removing the thyroid gland surgically, and is typically followed by radiation. There are typically no side effects to the medication used to regulate thyroid disease, and surgical complications are also very rare. Many people live long and healthy lives with thyroid disease.

To learn more about your thyroid, join Dr. Gunsberger for “Your Thyroid: How It Affects Your Health,” on Wednesday, April 13, 6 – 7:30 p.m., at St. Luke’s Medical Center, 1800 E. Van Buren St. in Phoenix. For more information or to register, call 1-877-351-WELL (9355), or visit stlukesmedcenter.com.

This information is provided by St. Luke’s
Medical Center as general information only
and is not intended to replace the advice of
a physician.

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