Thyroid Disorders

What are the symptoms of an overactive thyroid?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor thinks I may have an overactive thyroid. What does that mean? Which of my symptoms did it cause?

DEAR READER: Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, is a condition in which your body makes too much thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormones are made by the thyroid gland, which sits just under the skin of the lower front part of your neck.

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a woman in my late 50s. Lately I've been colder and more tired than usual. My memory has been off and my skin is drier. I figured these were all effects of getting older. Fortunately, my doctor did a blood test that showed hypothyroidism. Could all of these symptoms really result from an underactive thyroid?

DEAR READER: Midlife can bring subtle changes in skin, hair, energy, weight and even mental outlook. Like you, many women write these changes off as the effects of aging. But, as your doctor did, it's a good idea to make sure they're not the result of an underactive thyroid. The thyroid is a tiny butterfly-shaped gland that perches in the front of your neck.

What does calcium have to do with the parathyroid gland?

DEAR DOCTOR K: A recent blood test showed that the calcium level in my blood is high. My levels of something called "PTH" are also high. Now my doctor has scheduled a parathyroid scan. Why? What does calcium have to do with the parathyroid?

DEAR READER: You have four parathyroid glands. These pea-sized glands sit on your thyroid gland, in the lower part of your neck. I've put an illustration of the parathyroid glands below. A hormone is a chemical made in one organ that enters the blood, travels throughout the body and affects how different parts of the body work. The parathyroid glands produce the parathyroid hormone (PTH).

What are the treatment options for hyperthyroidism?

DEAR DOCTOR K: What are the treatment options for hyperthyroidism? Can you discuss the pros and cons of each one?

DEAR READER: The thyroid gland in your neck makes thyroid hormone. This chemical circulates in the blood and affects the functioning of every cell in your body. It is essential for life, but you need to have just the right amount circulating, not too much and not too little.

I’ve read about hypothyroid supplements that could help my symptoms — Should I take them along with my thyroid medicine?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have hypothyroidism. According to the Internet, there are several supplements that could help my symptoms. Should I be taking a supplement along with my thyroid medicine?

DEAR READER: Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland (located in the front of the neck) doesn't produce enough thyroid hormones. Every cell in the body needs thyroid hormone for normal function. When there is not enough hormone circulating in the blood, symptoms develop.

What type of synthetic thyroid hormone should I take?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have hypothyroidism and take synthetic thyroid hormone. Is it OK to switch brands or switch to a generic?

DEAR READER: It's OK to switch, so long as your doctor monitors your thyroid blood tests. It is very important to get your dose right: Your thyroid gland influences your metabolism. It affects everything from body temperature to body weight, energy level, even fertility.

What is Graves’ disease and how is it treated?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My best friend was just diagnosed with Graves' disease. I'd like to understand the condition and what her treatment will entail.

DEAR READER: Graves' disease is an autoimmune disease that can affect the thyroid gland, eyes and skin. In almost all cases, it causes the thyroid gland to be overactive. The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck, close to the Adam's apple. It produces hormones that control how our bodies use energy.