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Caring for Patients with Thyroid Disease in Southeastern MA & RI

Thyroid disease is a problem with your thyroid gland — a gland in the front of your neck. The hormones your thyroid makes influence every cell in your body. They tell your body’s organs how fast or slow to work. When you have thyroid disease, your organs may no longer work at the right pace or the thyroid may develop changes due to inflammation, like a goiter or thyroid nodule. Some nodules may harbor cancer.

There are four basic types of thyroid disease:

  • Hyperthyroidism is an overactive thyroid gland with high levels of thyroid hormone.
  • Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid gland with low levels of thyroid hormone.
  • Thyroid nodules are lumps that are noncancerous (benign) 90% of the time. Nodules and swelling of the thyroid (also called goiter) can lead to hyperthyroidism.
  • Thyroid cancer is a highly treatable condition that often shows up as a thyroid mass that can be felt with the fingers.

Thyroid disease is very common, affecting about 20 million Americans. However, up to 60% of people do not realize they have a problem. Left untreated, thyroid disease increases the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and infertility.

Your primary care doctor may refer you to a Southcoast endocrinologist if needed to evaluate your thyroid and receive personalized treatment for thyroid disease in Fall River, Dartmouth or Wareham, MA or Portsmouth, RI.

Risk Factors & Causes of Thyroid Problems

In the United States, Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. In this autoimmune disease, the immune system makes antibodies that attach to the thyroid gland and stimulate it to make too much thyroid hormone.

The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is also an autoimmune disease. The immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland, inhibiting thyroid hormone production.

In general, risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing thyroid disease include:

  • Age greater than 60
  • Exposure to radiation therapy or certain medications
  • Family history of thyroid disease
  • Family or personal history of an autoimmune disease
  • Female gender
  • Hormonal changes with pregnancy or menopause
  • Personal history of thyroid disease or thyroid surgery

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism & Hypothyroidism

In hyperthyroidism, symptoms include feeling hot all the time, losing weight without trying, feeling anxious or nervous, sweating a lot and having frequent bowel movements. Menstrual irregularities can also occur.

In hypothyroidism, not having enough thyroid hormone slows your body down. Symptoms include feeling cold all the time, gaining weight, feeling depressed and being constipated. Women may also notice menstrual problems.

Thyroid nodules and cancer do not always cause symptoms. Often, people see the doctor because of a noticeable lump in the neck. Other symptoms include hoarseness, persistent cough, throat or neck pain, and difficulty swallowing or breathing.

Patients across southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island rely on Southcoast Health for diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disease in Fall River, North Dartmouth, Wareham, MA and Portsmouth, RI.