The thyroid gland is located in the lower neck near the windpipe. Its function is to produce thyroid hormone, which helps to regulate the metabolism of the body. When the body's metabolism needs to be increased, the pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, produces a hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). This hormone stimulates the thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormone.
When the body's metabolism needs to decreased, the amount of TSH made by the pituitary is decreased, which then turns down the activity of the thyroid gland. When the thyroid gland functions normally, the body's homeostasis is kept in the normal range for most situations.
Hypothyroidism is a very common disease in which the thyroid gland is not active enough to meet the body's metabolic needs. Patients' decreased metabolisms will cause symptoms, such as weight gain, fatigue, forgetfulness, dry skin, coarse hair and intolerance to cold.
An overactive thyroid can be due to a number of diseases including thyroiditis, (inflammation of the thyroid gland), Graves Disease (an overactive thyroid nodule), an enlarged overactive thyroid gland, as well as several other less common reasons.
Patients will experience symptoms of a higher level of metabolism, which can include weight loss, increased heart rate or palpitations, nervousness, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, intolerance to heat, warm skin, sweating or, in the instance of Graves disease, bulging of the eyes.
Thyroid nodules are very common and are benign 95 percent of the time. Most thyroid nodules are noted during the physical exam by the patient or a physician, or by an imaging study that includes the neck. When thyroid nodules are found, they should be evaluated by a physician familiar with these nodules and thyroid cancer.
Thyroid cancer is very treatable and more than 95 percent of patients are cured of the disease after treatment, which includes surgical removal of the thyroid cancer followed by radioactive iodine treatment and a close surveillance program to monitor for cancer recurrence. An endocrine tumor program can provide excellent care throughout all the steps of thyroid cancer treatment.
Thyroid surgery is performed to resolve conditions such as hyperthyroidism due to overactive thyroid nodule, Graves disease, thyroid goiter, thyroid nodules or thyroid cancer. Patients can find an experienced thyroid surgeon at Montefiore's Endocrine and Neuroendocrine Tumor.