Skye likes writing about mental health, nutrition, and wellness. She is passionate about sharing information that will educate, and positively affect people's lives.
Dr. Aaron Wiegmann
Dr. Wiegmann earned his medical degree (M.D.) from Rush Medical College and completed his General Surgery residency at Rush University Medical Center and Cook County Hospital. He has a Master's Degree (M.S.) in clinical research and has published numerous peer-reviewed articles.
April 8, 2021
Although it may be small, your thyroid plays an outsized role in your health throughout your life. The butterfly-shaped gland is located in the front of your neck, directly in the front of your windpipe. A healthy thyroid is undetectable by “feel.”
It regulates many critical bodily functions, including metabolism. Working in concert with the pituitary gland, it detects the body’s need for energy and either produces more or less hormones to satisfy the demand.
The thyroid affects your:
The thyroid plays a part in your health from birth to death; fetuses and infants need a healthy thyroid for brain development, and your overall health is dependent on a well-functioning thyroid. The thyroid’s impact is so enormous that there are specialists and even sub-specialists who focus exclusively on the gland and its functions.
EverydayDr is partnered with PlushCare, a top telehealth company that connects patients with top online doctors. We recommend PlushCare for all your thyroid medical needs. Book an appointment to get thyroid treatment online here.
Read on to learn more about the thyroid’s role in the body, common issues, thyroid doctors, and how to find a doctor near you.
The thyroid is a fascinating organ that is shared in nature by all vertebrates. Although the gland wasn’t named until 1656, conditions arising from thyroid disease (and their treatments) were part of medical literature dating back to 2700 B.C. China, when Emperor Shen Nung prescribed seaweed to treat goiters, or thyroid swelling.
The gland produces three different hormones:
Calcitonin is for calcium and bone metabolism, but T3 and T4’s effects range throughout our body.
Simply put, when your body’s metabolism ranges too high or too low, the pituitary gland signals the thyroid to add or subtract the level of T3 or T4 in your body. If you feel your pulse quicken, or your heart pumping more blood during a workout—they are responding to your thyroid.
Interestingly enough, one of the most crucial ingredients that make up T3/T4 is iodine, which does not occur naturally in our bodies. In effect, we fuel part of our thyroid strictly by diet.
When thyroid functionality is compromised, the gland can create several different issues ranging from mild to life-threatening. “Thyroid disease” is something of a blanket phrase for any condition that hampers thyroid function.
It falls under two general categories, and common symptoms for each are also divided along the same lines:
“About 5% of the general population in the United States has hypothyroidism”, states Carteret Health, “although this number has varied widely in studies and within certain groups of people. Women, especially those older than age 60, are more likely to have hypothyroidism. Some studies have shown rates as high as 25% in the older population.”
This list of symptoms below, compiled by the Cleveland Clinic, will give you a sense of just how many aspects of your health your thyroid touches.
Hyperthyroidism, or an excess of thyroid hormones, can give you:
Hypothyroidism, or a deficit of thyroid hormones, can present:
If you have any of these symptoms, your doctor may call for additional testing. Thyroid disease, especially for older people and pregnant women, can be challenging to diagnose as the symptoms could come from any number of conditions. But there are a number of tests that can help you discover if you have a thyroid condition.
The first, most common, and often most accurate, is a simple blood test. Blood is drawn and then checked for several markers, most notably the level of thyroid hormones in your blood. Imaging tests and physical exams can also help diagnose thyroid issues. These are non-invasive and simple outpatient tests. If the results come back positive, you will likely be referred to a thyroid doctor.
The specialists who focus on the thyroid and other body-regulating glands are called endocrinologists. Like all doctors, endocrinologists receive extensive general training, usually in internal medicine. They then spend additional years of study focusing on the endocrine system.
The endocrine system is complicated and multi-faceted and includes many different organs besides the thyroid. From the ovaries/testes to the adrenal glands, endocrinologists focus on the system as a whole, and treat conditions from diabetes to thyroid disease.
Some doctors in the field go on to even further study the thyroid, creating a subspecialty sometimes known as a “thyroidologist.”
For most people, the first doctor they will see about possible thyroid issues will be their primary care physician. That’s the best place to start; if your doctor suspects thyroid disease, they will order any number of tests.
If your hormone levels are irregular or require additional attention, most of the time, your doctor will refer you to an endocrinologist. Because endocrinologists are rarely primary care doctors, patients suffering from thyroid issues tend to start, and sometimes even manage their symptoms with their primary care physician.
But it’s important to note: the thyroid is a complex and also essential gland. It affects so many functions and health factors that when you first receive a thyroid disease diagnosis, it’s vital to talk to an expert in the field. Endocrinologists have the experience and training to not only set the proper treatment for you, they’ll also be able to answer any questions you have.
It’s also essential to know precisely what kind of thyroid disease you have. The term is truly a “catch-all” for a number of illnesses and conditions that can range from the easy-to-manage to life-threatening. Knowing precisely what you have gives you the best treatment course.
You may well be able to manage your thyroid problems without the need of an endocrinologist. But expert advice at the start can make the process and treatment that much easier.
Most of the time, you’ll meet your endocrinologist via referral. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait for advice or a consultation. The expansion of online health options means that you can seek advice and help from a variety of sites that offer excellent guidance from thyroid specialists.
Our partners at PlushCare have an extensive network of primary care physicians that can help. Online healthcare gives patients unprecedented accessibility and affordability in a traditionally expensive and often exclusive industry.
Although PlushCare does not have endocrinologists at this time, primary care physicians can help you begin your treatment plan for your thyroid concerns. If you have not been diagnosed yet, you will need to complete a few tests.
An online doctor can order necessary lab tests, or write you a referral to your closest lab. Once your results are sent back to your doctor, they can make a diagnosis, and work to create a comprehensive treatment plan with you.
They can prescribe medication for your thyroid condition online, and send it to your nearest pharmacy. Typically, PlushCare doctors prescribe Synthroid and Levothyroxine for thyroid treatment.
Click here to make an appointment with a PlushCare doctor.
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