Saint Vincent Hospital Endocrinologists Provide Long-Term or Lifelong Care for People with Thyroid DiseaseJan 29, 2024
National Thyroid Awareness Month in January Highlights These Often-Undiagnosed Conditions
Worcester, Mass. – Using diagnostics and treatment techniques, endocrinologists at Saint Vincent Hospital provide long-term or lifelong care for patients with thyroid disease including hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. January is National Thyroid Awareness Month and a time to educate people about these often-undiagnosed conditions.
An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, but up to 60% of people with the disease are unaware of their condition, according to the American Thyroid Association (ATA). Women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems, with one out of every eight women likely to develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the lower front of the neck that produces two hormones (T-3 and T-4) to help the body use energy, stay warm, and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working. According to the ATA, hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces insufficient thyroid hormone, causing such symptoms as extreme fatigue, depression, dry skin and hair, constipation, muscle cramps, and weight gain. Women may have an increased menstrual flow. With hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This can lead to increased sweating, racing or irregularly beating heart, irritability, nervousness, anxiety, hand tremors, frequent bowel movements or diarrhea, unexplained weight loss, difficulty sleeping, vision problems and eye irritation, among other symptoms. For women, it can often mean lighter and/or less frequent menstrual periods.
“Undiagnosed thyroid disease may put patients at risk for such serious conditions as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and infertility, as well as an increased risk for pregnant women of miscarriage, preterm delivery, and developmental problems in their children. Hyperthyroidism can be life-threatening, if left untreated,” says Nitin Trivedi, MD, a board-certified internist and endocrinologist at Saint Vincent Hospital. Dr. Trivedi is also an associate program director in the hospital’s internal medicine residency program.
He added, “At Saint Vincent Hospital, we work closely with our patients to develop a detailed understanding of their unique needs and map out the most appropriate course of care for them. In many cases, this involves lifelong medical attention and medication management.”
Treatment for hypothyroidism, which is more common than hyperthyroidism, typically involves the use of synthetic thyroxine to replace the naturally occurring thyroid hormone produced by the thyroid gland. Hyperthyroidism, which is more difficult to treat, can be caused by an autoimmune condition called Graves’ disease, inflammation of the thyroid (thyroiditis), or overproduction of the thyroid hormone by thyroid nodules. Graves’ disease, the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, can be treated with antithyroid drugs such as methimazole (MMI) and propylthiourcil (PTU), which reduce the ability of the thyroid to make thyroid hormone, according to Dr. Trivedi.
“These drugs control the thyroid hormone levels while the patient is taking the medication, but they do not usually cause a permanent reduction in the hormone levels,” he explains. “They may require adjusting by the physician to maintain hormone levels in the normal range.”
Permanent treatment solutions for Graves’ disease and toxic thyroid nodules, but not thyroiditis, include using radioactive iodine to destroy the thyroid cells that produce the thyroid hormone. According to Dr. Trivedi, hyperthyroidism can also be treated by surgical removal of the overactive thyroid gland or nodules.