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Thyroids

Thyroids

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland situated in the lower half of the neck, in front of the windpipe. It produces hormones that regulate the metabolic rate of the body.

What types of thyroid problems are there?

Thyroid hormone imbalances come in two forms – hyperthyroidism where the gland over-secretes thyroid hormones, creating intolerance to warm environments, palpitations, general irritability, muscle weakness and weight loss in spite of an increased appetite; and hypothyroidism where too little of the hormone is produced and lethargy, intolerance to the cold and weight gain in spite of a poor appetite can happen.

There is also goitre, which refers to the enlargement of the gland. This could be due to natural physiological changes during puberty or pregnancy, but if it causes compression of the windpipe or gullet, goitres may need to be surgically removed.

Cancer can also occur in the thyroid gland, generally affecting more females than males. Symptoms include neck lumps that move when the patient swallows, enlarged lymph glands in the neck as well as hoarseness, difficulty breathing and swallowing in more advanced stages.

What treatments are available for thyroid cancer?

Surgery is the preferred primary treatment and may be used in conjunction with other treatments like radioactive iodine therapy, radiotherapy and thyroxine suppression. It is best to consult a thyroid specialist for a full evaluation.

Learn more about thyroid surgery here.