Thyroid and Parathyroid Glands: Functions and Disorders

Doctor Examining Patients NeckThe thyroid gland and parathyroid glands make certain hormones that help regulate your metabolism and calcium levels. The thyroid gland is responsible for producing thyroid hormones which regulate the metabolism and the parathyroid glands produce parathryoid hormones to regulate calcium level within the body. Thyroid disorders, though extremely common, require special care due to their location within the neck.

What is the Thyroid Gland?

Your thyroid gland makes thyroid hormones which regulates your metabolism. The thyroid gland is located in the middle of the lower portion of your neck, just below the larynx (voice box). It is shaped like a bowtie with 2 halves (lobes) joined by a small bar of tissue called the isthmus. It is found just above the collarbones but when enlarged, can extend into the upper chest.

Thyroid Gland Disorders:

Diseases of the thyroid gland are very common, affecting millions of Americans. The most common thyroid problems are:

  • Hyperthyroidism: An overactive gland making too much hormone.
  • Hypothyroidism: An underactive gland making too little hormone.
  • Thyroid Nodules: The thyroid gland can develop nodules which are solid or cystic growths within the gland. These are usually benign but some can be malignant.
  • Goiter: A thyroid gland that enlarges or develops multiple nodules. If large enough, a Goiter can compress & affect other structures in the neck including the wind pipe (trachea) & swallowing tube (esophagus).

Thyroid Disease Treatment Options:

All treatment plans are individualized for you by our Center’s members as a team in consultation with your Primary Care Physician and, when appropriate, an Endocrinologist.

  • Annual monitoring of the thyroid gland by physical examination, ultrasound & blood tests.
  • Hormone Replacement medication for an underactive thyroid gland.
  • Medication to block the effects of too much thyroid hormone.
  • Radioactive Iodine treatment (RAI-131) to reduce an overactive thyroid gland.
  • Surgical Removal of a portion or the entire gland, in order to eliminate local symptoms or to diagnose & treat a thyroid cancer.

What is the Parathyroid Gland?

The parathyroid gland makes a hormone, parathyroid hormone (PTH) which regulates calcium levels in the body. Everyone has at least 4 parathyroid glands, rarely, there are 5 or 6 glands. Normal parathyroid glands are the size of lentil beans. They are usually located adjacent to the thyroid gland with 2 on each side. However, parathyroid glands can be located anywhere from within the chest to under the jaw bone.

Parathyroid Disorders:

The most common disorder affecting the parathyroid gland is Primary Hyperparathyroidism. Whereby one or more of the parathyroid glands enlarge, secreting too much PTH. Excess PTH causes calcium levels in the blood to rise while depleting calcium from the bones. The loss of calcium from the bones may weaken them making them more prone to fractures due to Osteoporosis. Elevated blood levels of calcium are a known cause of kidney stones and may bring on symptoms including depression, lethargy, body aches and mood swings. Parathyroid cancer is extremely rare.

How is Primary Hyperparathyroidism Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of Primary Hyperparathyroidism may include the following tests:

  • Blood tests for calcium & PTH Urine analysis for calcium & other body chemicals.
  • Bone density scans may be of benefit to assess the disease’s impact on bone health.
  • A Nuclear Medicine scan called a Sestamibi Scan is used to help localize the diseased parathyroid gland.
  • Ultrasound analysis of the thyroid gland & surrounding tissue can aid in localization.

When the diagnosis of Primary Hyperparathyroidism is made, a discussion with you & our team in order to decide if surgery is appropriate for your condition. Many times we prefer to take a “Watch and See” approach if the disease is in its early stages.

What sets Advanced Specialty Care apart from other practices?

At Advanced Specialty Care, all of our Board Certified surgeons approach inpatient care in a similar manner; utilizing the most advanced technology & surgical methods in order to ensure patient safety & optimal results.

  • We are experts in thyroid & parathyroid surgery and have each performed hundreds of these procedures.
  • We continuously monitor the laryngeal nerve (voice box) to minimize the risk of vocal nerve injury & best preserve voice quality.
  • We check PTH levels during parathyroid surgery in order to be sure that all disease & parathyroid glands are removed.
  • We utilize minimally invasive techniques such as small incisions & minimal dissections.
  • All of our surgeons are Board Certified Head & Neck Surgeons and are also trained in facial cosmetic surgery in order to ensure a superior cosmetic result.

If you are experiencing or suspect a thyroid or parathyroid disorder, please contact our office to schedule an appointment with one of our Board-Certified ENT surgeons today. Appointments are available at Advanced Specialty Care’s Danbury, New Milford, Norwalk and Ridgefield, CT offices.

Topics: Blog, Ear, Nose & Throat