Thyroid and Parathyroid Conditions

At El Camino Health, our ENT doctors will expertly diagnose and treat disorders of the thyroid and parathyroid glands.

Your Thyroid Gland

The thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly and sits at the base of your neck, just above the collarbone. It produces hormones that regulate many activities in your body — including how fast your heart beats and how quickly you burn calories.

Disorders of the Thyroid – Signs, Symptoms and Treatments

When your thyroid gland is not working properly, you may develop certain conditions that need treatment.

Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)

Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid makes excessive levels of hormones. Your body’s metabolism increases, triggering symptoms that may include:

  • Nervousness, anxiety and irritability.
  • A fast heart rate.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Feeling too warm.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Swelling of the thyroid gland, which causes a lump (goiter) in the throat.

Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones. Underactive thyroid glands lower the calcium level in your blood. Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue and weight gain.
  • Increased sensitivity to cold.
  • Constipation.
  • Muscle weakness, aches and stiffness.
  • Impaired memory.
  • Hoarseness.
  • Puffy face, dry skin, thinning hair.
  • Depression.
  • A slow heart rate.

Our ENT doctors at El Camino Health can use blood tests to determine the amount of hormones produced by your thyroid gland. Hyperthyroidism can be treated — usually with medicine and sometimes with surgery. Hypothyroidism can be treated with medicine.

Thyroid Nodules

A thyroid nodule is a lump in your thyroid gland. Usually, these nodules do not cause any trouble — they’re just an overgrowth of normal thyroid tissue. Other times, they lead to the production of too much thyroid hormone and need to be removed. Some thyroid nodules can be cancerous, but most are not.

Usually, thyroid nodules are discovered during a routine exam or an X-ray done for another reason. To evaluate a thyroid nodule, your doctor may use blood tests or ultrasound. Some thyroid nodules don’t require any treatment. Depending on the size, some nodules may be treated with hormone therapy or surgery. Malignant thyroid nodules are usually treated with surgery.

Enlarged Thyroid (A Goiter)

An enlarged thyroid, called a goiter, is caused by iodine deficiency in the diet, thyroid disease or thyroid nodules. Symptoms may include:

  • Swelling at the base of your neck that may be particularly obvious when you shave or put on makeup.
  • A tight feeling in your throat.
  • Coughing.
  • Hoarseness.
  • Difficulty swallowing.

Some goiters don’t cause symptoms. Usually your doctor can detect a goiter during a physical exam of your neck. To confirm the diagnosis, you may need blood tests, a radioactive iodine scan or a thyroid ultrasound. Treatment may involve a thyroid hormone replacement pill, medicine, radioactive iodine treatment, or surgery.

Cancer of the Thyroid

Thyroid cancer typically does not cause symptoms early in the disease. As cancer grows, it may cause:

  • A lump that can be felt through the skin on your neck.
  • Changes to your voice, including increasing hoarseness.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Pain in your neck and throat.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck.

To treat thyroid cancer, doctors usually remove the thyroid. Treatment may also involve radioactive iodine, thyroid hormone therapy and chemotherapy. The specialists at El Camino Health will diagnose and treat your cancer using the latest medical techniques.

Your Parathyroid Glands

On the back of the thyroid, you have four pea-sized glands called the parathyroid glands. They control the levels of calcium in your blood. It’s important to maintain enough calcium to protect your bones and teeth. Calcium also helps your heart, muscles and nerves work normally.

Disorders of the Parathyroid Gland – Symptoms and Treatments

Overactive Parathyroid Glands (Hyperparathyroidism)

Hyperparathyroidism is a disorder in which the parathyroid glands produce too much hormone. Overactive parathyroid glands cause your blood calcium level to rise, which may lead to bone thinning and kidney stones. The most common cause is the development of a benign tumor in one of the parathyroid glands. In rare cases, the cause is cancer.

Symptoms of hyperparathyroidism include:

  • Muscle weakness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Aches and pains in bones and joints.
  • Depression.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Nausea.
  • Increased thirst and urination.
  • Confusion.

Doctors can detect overactive parathyroid glands with blood and urine tests. The treatment is surgery — to remove the parathyroid gland that is producing too much hormone.

Underactive Parathyroid Glands (Hypoparathyroidism)

Hypoparathyroidism is a rare disorder in which the parathyroid glands do not produce enough parathyroid hormone. Underactive parathyroid glands lower the calcium level in your blood. Symptoms include:

  • Tingling or burning feeling in your fingertips, toes and lips.
  • Muscle aches or cramps in your legs, feet or face.
  • Twitching or spasms of your muscles, particularly around your mouth, but also in your hands, arms and throat.

Underactive parathyroid glands can be treated with vitamin D and oral calcium supplements.