Thyroid 101: Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Treatments

January 12, 2023

Most people have heard of the thyroid, but few are aware of just how important it is to their overall health. This small, butterfly-shaped gland sits near the base of your throat and is an integral component of the body’s endocrine system. The gland is responsible for the production and release of key hormones that work together to regulate the growth, development, and metabolism of the body.

Unfortunately, there are several issues that can develop within the thyroid, including thyroid cancer. Here’s a closer look into common thyroid conditions and how they’re treated.

What Are the Risk Factors for Thyroid Conditions?

Some issues that can develop within the thyroid include goiters, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and thyroid cancer. Each condition has its own unique risk factors. For example, goiters are enlargements or growths of the thyroid which are commonly caused by lack of iodine in the diet. Since iodized salt is commonly used in the U.S., American patients commonly experience goiters caused by other factors, such as an autoimmune disorder.

Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s disease can also affect the thyroid and cause goiters. Graves’ disease can also cause hyperthyroidism, which occurs when the thyroid produces an excess amount of hormones, while Hashimoto’s disease is a common cause of hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid.

Thyroid cancer also has several specific risk factors. Women, for example, are more likely to develop it than men. People who are of Asian descent or between the ages of 25 and 65 also face a higher risk. Additionally, anyone who has received previous radiation to the head or neck or who has a family history of thyroid cancer is at greater risk.

Thyroid cancer can develop even in people with no known risk factors, and having risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean someone will develop the disease.

Symptoms of Thyroid Issues

Since the gland is responsible for so many processes throughout the body, symptoms of thyroid problems can vary from one patient to the next, and depending on the condition. With that in mind, the following issues could indicate a thyroid problem:

Signs of thyroid cancer may be more specific. Symptoms can include swelling in the neck or an identifiable lump, difficulty breathing or swallowing, and persistent coughing.

How Thyroid Issues Are Treated

Treatment for thyroid issues is determined based on condition. Medications may be used to treat hyper- or hypothyroidism, for example, while surgery may be needed to remove goiters. In most cases, thyroid cancer can be cured, especially if it hasn’t spread beyond the gland itself. Common approaches to treatment include surgery, thyroid hormone therapy, radioactive iodine treatment, targeted therapies, external beam radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

For comprehensive healthcare delivered by compassionate providers — for your thyroid or any other part of your body — turn to Morgan Physician Services, Family Medicine. Learn more online or schedule an appointment by calling us at (706) 438-1275.