thyroid gland is the biggest gland in the neck. It is situated in the anterior
(front) neck below the skin and muscle layers. The thyroid gland takes the shape
of a butterfly with the two wings being represented by the left and right
thyroid lobes which wrap around the trachea. The sole function of the thyroid is
to make thyroid hormone. This hormone has an effect on nearly all tissues of the
body where it increases cellular activity. The function
of the thyroid therefore is to regulate the body's metabolism.
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Common Thyroid Problems
The thyroid gland is prone to several very distinct problems, some of which are extremely common. These problems can be broken down into  those concerning the production of hormone (too much, or too little),  those due to increased growth of the thyroid causing compression of important neck structures or simply appearing as a mass in the neck,  the formation of nodules or lumps within the thyroid which are worrisome for the presence of thyroid cancer, and  those which are cancerous. Each thyroid topic is addressed separately and illustrated with actual patient x-rays and pictures to make them easier to understand. The information on this web site is arranged to give you more detailed and complex information as you read further.
- Goiters ~ A thyroid goiter is a
dramatic enlargement of the thyroid gland. Goiters are often removed because
of cosmetic reasons or, more commonly, because they compress other vital
structures of the neck including the trachea and the esophagus making
breathing and swallowing difficult. Sometimes goiters will actually grow
into the chest where they can cause trouble as well. Several nice x-rays
will help explain all types of thyroid goiter problems.
- Thyroid Cancer ~ Thyroid cancer
is a fairly common malignancy, however, the vast majority have excellent
long term survival. We now include a separate page on the characteristics of
each type of thyroid cancer and its typical treatment, follow-up, and
- Solitary Thyroid Nodules ~ There
are several characteristics of solitary nodules of the thyroid which make
them suspicious for malignancy. Although as many as 50% of the population
will have a nodule somewhere in their thyroid, the overwhelming majority of
these are benign. Occasionally, thyroid nodules can take on characteristics
of malignancy and require either a needle biopsy or surgical excision. Now
includes risks of radiation exposure and the role of Needle Biopsy for
evaluating a thyroid nodule. Also a new page on the role of
ultrasound in diagnosing thyroid nodules and masses.
- Hyperthyroidism ~
Hyperthyroidism means too much thyroid hormone. Current methods used for
treating a hyperthyroid patient are radioactive iodine, anti-thyroid drugs,
or surgery. Each method has advantages and disadvantages and is selected for
individual patients. Many times the situation will suggest that all three
methods are appropriate, while other circumstances will dictate a single
best therapeutic option. Surgery is the least common treatment selected for
hyperthyroidism. The different causes of hyperthyroidism are covered in
- Hypothyroidism ~ Hypothyroidism means too little
thyroid hormone and is a common problem. In fact, hypothyroidism is often
present for a number of years before it is recognized and treated. There are
several common causes, each of which are covered in detail. Hypothyroidism
can even be associated with pregnancy. Treatment for all types of
hypothyroidism is usually straightforward.
- Thyroiditis ~ Thyroiditis is an inflammatory process ongoing within the thyroid gland. Thyroiditis can present with a number of symptoms such as fever and pain, but it can also present as subtle findings of hypo or hyper-thyroidism. There are a number of causes, some more common than others. Each is covered on this site.