doctor checking man's neck

Understanding options for thyroid abnormalities

thyroid illustration

The thyroid gland is an important organ in the base of the neck that is located two fingerbreadths below the Adam’s apple. It is responsible for producing thyroid hormones, which are chemicals released directly into the bloodstream. Thyroid hormones are necessary for growth, nerve development and maintenance, menstrual cycles, reproduction, and regulation of energy metabolism.

Things that happen to the thyroid gland are quite common. Its function can be overactive or underactive. It can become inflamed. Nodules in the thyroid gland are very common. Some of these nodules may even develop cancer, although thyroid cancer is not as risky as other common cancers, like breast, lung and colon. Overall, 1 in 8 persons in the United States will develop a thyroid condition somewhere in their lifetimes. More women than men are affected by thyroid conditions, but they aren’t rare among men, either.

Primary care physicians will frequently screen for thyroid conditions to evaluate changes in mood, energy, bowel habits, temperature sensitivity and heart function. Untreated thyroid conditions may lead to heart disease, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, infertility, changes in the menstrual cycle, and problems with swallowing, breathing and hoarseness can result. They can start appropriate treatments but will frequently consult with specialists for additional team-based care.

Endocrinologists are internal-medicine specialists that diagnose and treat hormonal and metabolic disorders. The major condition that endocrinologists treat is diabetes mellitus, but we also specialize in thyroid disorders, calcium and bone health disorders, high cholesterol and other lipid disorders, and a variety of other hormonal conditions. Any of our Stark Diabetes (Endocrinology) Clinic physicians can evaluate and manage thyroid conditions; however, in our Victory Lakes Town Center clinic, we offer evaluation of the thyroid gland with a state-of-the-art ultrasound machine.

If your condition requires it, two of our faculty members (Drs. Veena Kesireddy and Pooja Manroa) are able to conduct ultrasound-guided biopsies of the thyroid gland and associated nodules, then coordinate care with ear, nose and throat (ENT) physicians if surgery is necessary. For overactive thyroid glands, we can prescribe medications for long-term control, or work with nuclear medicine physicians to deliver therapy. For underactive thyroid glands, we can replace hormones with FDA-approved synthetic medications.

Our practice believes that appropriate correction of abnormal thyroid conditions will lead to the enjoyment of a healthy life. Our physicians can recommend the best approach for patients experiencing these conditions.

Kevin H. McKinney, MD, FACE, FACP, is a Professor and Chief ad interim, Division of Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine, at UTMB. He is a general endocrinologist with an interest in calcium and bone metabolism, diabetes and hyperthyroidism.

Endocrinology Services