Found at the base of the neck, the thyroid gland produces hormones that primarily determine how fast your body uses energy (metabolism).
Hormone levels too high or too low (hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism) can produce symptoms serious enough to require a visit to a thyroid specialist in Los Angeles.
An Overactive Thyroid
The most common reason for a thyroid gland to be overactive is Graves’ disease, a condition caused by an immune system disorder. With patients suspected of having hyperthyroidism, a thyroid specialist in Los Angeles typically performs specialized tests to find out if symptoms that may include unexplained weight loss, difficulty sleeping, muscle weakness, and increased irritability and restlessness may be related to gland issues.
Diagnosis of an overactive thyroid usually involves a blood test to check thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. High levels indicate over-activity. You may also be given radioactive iodine orally or by injection to determine how much is absorbed by your thyroid. A specialist may recommend one of the following common treatments options:
- Methimazole and other medications that slow down hormone production
- Large doses of radioactive iodine
- Thyroid gland removal (thyroidectomy)
Underactive Thyroid Problems
Frequently caused by a previous thyroidectomy or an autoimmune disorder known as Hashimoto’s disease, an underactive thyroid can boost your sensitivity to cold and contribute to memory problems, constipation, and weight gain. Because these symptoms can be vague or related to other conditions, expect a thyroid specialist in Los Angeles to ask about your medical history.
Diagnosis of hypothyroidism also involves blood tests. Your pituitary gland may be evaluated as well, since it sometimes releases more TSH to compensate for a thyroid that’s not sufficiently active. If it’s confirmed your symptoms are related to an underactive thyroid, you’ll likely be advised to take thyroid hormone pills to restore normal TSH levels.
A thyroid specialist in Los Angeles can also provide treatment for other conditions that may be affecting this gland. If Hashimoto’s disease is the reason for your underactive thyroid, hormone-replacing medication may ease related symptoms. However, there is no cure for this autoimmune condition. There is also no cure for Graves’ disease. Even so, treating the related thyroid problem may ease symptoms that might include hand tremors, irregular heartbeat, diarrhea, and increased anxiety.
Fifty percent of the time, growths called thyroid nodules are too small to feel in your neck. The good news is most of them are benign (non-cancerous). If these growths become large enough, you may have difficulty breathing or swallowing. Because some nodules produce thyroid hormones, you may develop symptoms suggesting similar to what’s experienced with hyperthyroidism. A biopsy may be done to determine if these growths are benign or cancerous. Treatment may involve one of the following options:
- Radioactive iodine: The goal with radioactive iodine therapy is to shrink the nodules gradually to relieve problematic symptoms.
- Thyroid gland removal: If cancer is detected, the preferred treatment is usually partial or complete removal of the thyroid gland.
One other reason to visit a thyroid specialist in Los Angeles is if you have an enlarged thyroid gland, which is known as a goiter. While usually painless, a goiter that’s excessively large may cause difficulties with breathing or swallowing. If radioactive iodine and other conservative treatments aren’t effective, surgery may be necessary.