Treatment for Thyroid and Parathyroid Disorders
The thyroid gland plays an important role in regulating the body's metabolism and calcium balance. The parathyroid glands produce a hormone that stimulates the release of calcium by bones into the bloodstream, absorption of calcium by the intestines, and conservation of calcium by the kidneys. Endocrinologists diagnose and treat disorders of the thyroid and parathyroid glands.
Thyroid and parathyroid function is measured through a number of non-invasive procedures, including:
- Laboratory Tests
- Ultrasound Examinations
- Thyroid Scans
- Function Stimulation Tests
- Bone X-rays
New York Methodist physicians use these procedures to determine if a patient's symptoms are caused by thyroid malfunction and the specific nature of the problem. Among the most common thyroid disorders are:
Hyperthyroidism is excessive secretion of the thyroid hormones. This results in over-activity of the body's metabolism. Symptoms may include:
- Hand Tremors
- Fast Heartbeat
- High Blood Pressure
- Weight Loss
- Sensitivity to Light
Graves' disease is a type of hyperthyroidism that manifests these symptoms. In addition, the following characterized it:
- Goiter (bulge in the neck from an enlarged thyroid gland)
- Bulging Eyes
- Thickened Skin Over the Shin
The disease is diagnosed through a blood test for thyroid hormone levels and a thyroid scan. Treatments for hyperthyroidism include:
- Radioactive Iodine
Hypothyroidism is an under-active thyroid and the most common thyroid disorder. Most frequently, it results from an autoimmune disorder or from treatment of hyperthyroidism. Symptoms include:
- Weight Gain
- Puffy or Swollen Face
- Coarse Skin and Hair
- Slow Pulse
Blood tests confirm a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. Treatment usually consists of a prescription of replacement thyroid hormones.
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is the most common form of thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland). It is characterized by goiter, fatigue, muscle weakness, and weight gain and often associated with other endocrine disorders, such as:
- Under-active Parathyroid Gland or Adrenal Gland
- Autoimmune Disorders
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis usually results in hypothyroidism, which is then treated with hormone replacement therapy.
Benign thyroid tumors (adenomas) secrete thyroid hormone and may need treatment if they cause hyperthyroidism. Cancerous thyroid tumors occur spontaneously or in people exposed to nuclear events (e.g., the Chernobyl reactor explosion). Thyroid cancer is frequently curable through surgery and/or hormone and radioactive iodine therapy.
Overactive parathyroid glands result in increased levels of calcium in the blood stream, which can lead to weakening of the bones and to kidney stones. Symptoms include:
- Aches and Pains
- Abdominal Pain
- Excessive Urination
- Muscle Weakness
Treatment usually includes removal of parathyroid tissue.
Under-active parathyroid glands produce too little parathyroid hormone, which leads to low levels of calcium in the bloodstream. This in turn can cause seizures or uncontrollable spasms of the face, hands, arms, and feet. Treatment involves prescription of proper levels of calcium and vitamin D tablets.
Most parathyroid tumors are benign, but they can cause hyperparathyroidism. If this is the case, the usual treatment is surgical removal of the tumor.
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Learn more about Thyroid disorders and diabetes.