You’ve likely heard the word “thyroid” before. But do you really know what it does?
This tiny gland in the front of your neck wraps around your windpipe, creating and releasing the hormones your body needs to do specific things, including many vital functions. In fact, it plays such an important role in your overall health that your system can go haywire when your thyroid function gets too high or too low.
As an ear, nose, and throat specialist, Dr. Vandana Kumra regularly sees thyroid problems at ENT New York, in New York City. Here, Dr. Kumra offers insight into the role your thyroid plays in your health and how to spot the signs of a problem.
Small but mighty
Your thyroid is only about two inches wide and weighs between 20-60 grams. But, don’t let its size fool you. Proper function of this gland is crucial at every age, from healthy brain and skeletal development in infants to immediate and long-term health and adults.
Generally speaking, your thyroid helps regulate your body’s metabolism by making and releasing two specific hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones are responsible for regulating specific functions throughout your body, including:
- Heart rate
- Body weight and temperature
- Muscle control and strength
- Energy expenditure
- Blood lipid levels
- Menstrual cycles
- Bone loss
- The central nervous system (CNS)
When your thyroid functions properly, it keeps your metabolism humming by creating replacement hormones as needed. If it doesn’t, you have thyroid disease — a general description for conditions that prevent your thyroid from maintaining healthy levels.
When thyroid problems arise
Because of your thyroid’s role in regulating your metabolism, its hormones impact every organ and cell in your body. As a result, the slightest drop or increase in these hormone levels can cause a wide range of problems that can vary from person to person.
Common signs of thyroid disease include:
- Skin changes
- Thinning or loss of hair
- Weight loss or gain
- Reduced or elevated heart rate
- Irritated or dry eyes
- Sluggishness or lethargy
- Weakness or tremors
- Changes in menstrual cycle
- Sensitivity to cold
- Hoarse voice
- Anxiety, irritability, or nervousness
Sometimes, the thyroid gland itself can become enlarged, causing a neck mass.
Diagnosing a thyroid problem
In some cases, thyroid disease can be tricky to diagnose because it shares so many symptoms with other medical conditions. However, Dr. Kumra specializes in thyroid and parathyroid (the pea-sized glands behind the thyroid) conditions.
If you or Dr. Kumra suspects a thyroid problem, she performs a comprehensive exam, often with imaging and blood tests. Blood tests can typically identify numerous thyroid disorders associated with both under- and overactive hormone production, including:
- Hashimoto’s disease
- Graves’ disease
- Thyroid nodules and cancer
After reaching a diagnosis, Dr. Kumra can make treatment recommendations ranging from medication to radioactive iodine treatment or surgery.
Worried you have a thyroid problem? Schedule a consultation with Vandana Kumra, MD, by calling 646-859-6136 or booking online today.