Your thyroid is the small, butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck. It acts as your body’s ignition, producing hormones that everything in you, from your hair to your vision, your weight, your ability to relax and concentrate, even whether you feel chilly.
Thyroid disorders happen when the gland produces too much or too little hormones. Although the effects can be unpleasant or uncomfortable, most thyroid problems can be managed. The experts at Central Maine Healthcare specialize in diagnosing all types of these conditions and helping restore balance to your hormones, health and life.
Conditions We Treat
Your doctor often can tell just by feeling your neck that it’s enlarged or shrunken, indicating that it’s not working properly. That manual exam is always followed up by a blood test to measure your hormone levels and identify which thyroid disorder you might have. They fall into four general categories:
- Hashimoto’s disease, or hypothyroidism—an underactive thyroid, when you’re not producing enough hormones.
- Graves’ disease, a form of hyperthyroidism, meaning you’re producing too much thyroid hormone.
- Goiter, a small growth on your thyroid with symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
- Thyroid nodules, growths on your thyroid that can secrete thyroid hormone (in addition to the hormones your thyroid already is producing), upsetting your hormonal balance.
When your thyroid isn’t working up to par – in other words, when it’s hypo, or underactive—you’re likely to be the coldest person in the room. Your hair may fall out more than usual, your vision can get blurry and your skin might feel dry even when you use lotion. You may find it difficult to memorize simple facts, lose weight or get up the energy to work or have fun. Symptoms of depression can appear.
If you’re hyperthyroid, or have an overactive thyroid, your symptoms will be the opposite: you will feel hot much of the time, perspire without exerting yourself, lose weight and you may feel restless and have difficulty sleeping. You may notice your eyes bulging. These symptoms show that your thyroid is producing too much hormone, and can indicate Graves’ disease, a goiter or nodules. If you have a goiter, you may also notice hoarseness in your voice or difficulty swallowing.
Full Range of Treatments
Our endocrine specialists will work with you to create a treatment plan based on your specific condition and needs.
Hashimoto’s is often treated with a simple medication called Levothyroxine. Your doctor probably will start you on a low dosage to see how your symptoms have improved after a few weeks, so it may take some months before the correct dosage can be determined. Anyone with thyroid disorders need to have their hormone levels tested periodically to see if their dosage needs to be increased or scaled back.
For hyperactive disorders, treatment depends on your situation. Thyroid nodules rarely become cancerous, but if a nodule or goiter interferes with your breathing or eating, your doctor will recommend iodine to shrink the thyroid, or possibly surgery. If the growth is large enough or malignant, you may need your thyroid removed, in which case you may be prescribed hormone replacement medication. Because the disorders are connected, treatments may overlap.