St. Mary's Medical Center

Spring 2015

Spirit of Women magazine is a national publication presented to women by hospitals and their physicians. The magazine provides up-to-date, evidence-based healthcare information and promotes our hospitals as leaders in women's health excellence.

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17 w w w. s p i r i t o f w o m e n . c o m S P R I N G 2 015 S P I R I T O F W O M E N SHUTTERSTOCK pretty quick. Most people can go home within 24 hours of the surgery and should be back to their regular routine within one or two days after that." Patients can live a perfectly normal life after thyroid surgery by taking prescribed thyroid replacement medication daily, he says, with an incidence of post- surgical complications of only about 1 percent. MAINTAINING THYROID HEALTH The best way to protect your thyroid is by scheduling annual or semiannual medical checkups that include routine blood work, and by calling your physician right away if you experience a sudden onset of symptoms such as lethargy or hyperactivity. "Thyroid function naturally declines with age, so it's something to keep track of," says Dr. Ryvkin. "And once you're on thyroid medication, make sure you're working with your doctor to ensure you're getting the right dosage. If you started on thyroid replacement at 35 and are now 50, the dosage might not be what you need anymore." If you're taking over-the-counter iodine supplements because you think they're helping to regulate your thyroid function, however, you're wasting your money on them, say physicians. "There is nothing available over the counter that is going to help your thyroid," says Dr. Kushnir. "If you live in a developed country, you're already getting plenty of iodine in your diet. You don't need to take supplemental iodine." When iodine supplements are prescribed at all, it's usually for pregnant women, says Dr. Ryvkin. "But otherwise, we get everything we need from our food," she adds. "There are areas of the world with severe iodine deficiency problems, but it's almost entirely in the developing world, where they deal with malnutrition. In the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, places like that, we get plenty of iodine in our diet." • says Dr. Victoria Ryvkin, a clinical endocrinologist affiliated with Northwest Community Healthcare, Arlington Heights, Ill. "Overactive thyroid is less common but still happens." If the cause of overactive or underactive thyroid can be identified, it's often an autoimmune response. But many times the cause isn't readily apparent, and the symptoms can mimic those of many other conditions. "Underactive thyroid can make you feel depressed, lethargic and just slow-thinking and slow-moving in general," says Dr. Leon Kushnir, an endocrine surgeon affiliated with Inspira Medical Center Vineland in Vineland, N.J. "With overactive thyroid, it's exactly the opposite. You can feel anxious, your mind is racing, you feel warm—those kinds of things." Because these types of thyroid disorders are difficult to pinpoint based on symptoms alone, the best way to monitor the health of your thyroid is with regular blood tests as part of your routine medical checkups. If blood tests suggest that your thyroid is functioning normally but you still have symptoms, your doctor may need to perform more advanced testing such as ultrasound or other bloodwork. OTHER THYROID CONDITIONS During your physical, your doctor should also feel your neck for nodules or growths, which could indicate a thyroid condition such as cancer or goiter, a general term used to describe any type of thyroid enlargement. "If your doctor feels a lump, he or she will probably do an ultrasound to determine the nature of it," says Dr. Kushnir. "There are [a number of] different reasons [besides cancer] why a thyroid might become enlarged." TREATMENT OPTIONS Underactive thyroid is most often treated with thyroid hormone replacement medications such as levothyroxine, which is marketed under a number of brand names. "Synthroid is among the synthetic hormone options," says Dr. Ryvkin. "There are other alternatives to synthetic hormones, however, including desiccated animal thyroid in tablet form. Your doctor is the best one to determine the proper treatment method for your situation." For structural conditions such as a goiter or cancer, surgical removal of the gland is the most common course of treatment recommended. "Cancer and enlargement conditions are almost always treated with surgery," says Dr. Kushnir. "But the surgery is not highly invasive or risky. If a skillful surgeon is performing the operation with up-to-date equipment, the surgery shouldn't leave an invasive scar. The incision is about an inch long, and the recovery time post-surgery is Common symptoms Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) 1. Nervousness or irritability 2. Fatigue or muscle weakness 3. Intolerance to heat 4. Trouble sleeping 5. Hand tremors 6. Rapid, irregular heartbeat 7. Frequent bowel movements or diarrhea 8. Weight loss 1. Fatigue 2. Weight gain 3. Puffy face 4. Intolerance to cold 5. Joint and muscle pain 6. Constipation 7. Dry skin or hair 8. Decreased sweating Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) 8 Source: National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service, National Institutes of Health

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