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How ENTs Treat Thyroid Conditions

an ENT doctor examining his patient's thyroids for abnormalities

Your thyroid gland is a vital endocrine gland that produces hormones to control your body's physiological processes, including metabolic activities like sweating. Your thyroid can be found just below your voice box (larynx), situated in the middle of your lower neck.

Thyroid conditions such as overactive glands (hyperthyroidism) and underactive glands (hypothyroidism) affect millions of Americans. Patients whose thyroid glands are compromised often face other health issues. But by seeking treatment from an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist, you can effectively prevent further complications. Here is how ENTs take care of thyroid conditions.

Types of thyroid conditions

Developing a thyroid condition can impact your everyday life in so many ways, as your thyroid gland plays a crucial role in your metabolism, growth and development. While there are different kinds, the most common conditions include thyroid nodules, thyroiditis, hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. All these require treatment from ENT specialists to reduce their long-term risks. Discussed below are some of them.

Hypothyroidism

This may occur when your body cannot produce enough of the thyroid hormone. The underlying cause of hypothyroidism can stem from an ineffective or a missing gland in your body.

Hyperthyroidism

It's the direct opposite of hyperthyroidism, which means your body produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormones. Grave's Disease is linked to this category of thyroid conditions.

Thyroiditis

Thyroiditis refers to the inflammation of the thyroid gland. Some forms of enlarged thyroid glands arise from infection, which means patients with sinus issues have higher risks of experiencing this condition. It's possible for hyperthyroidism to progress to thyroiditis when it's not treated at the early stage.

Thyroid nodules

These are bumps in your thyroid gland that drastically increase in size when they are left untreated. Out of the four main thyroid conditions, thyroid nodules rank high as one of the most common ones that often require immediate attention from ENT specialists. Some thyroid nodules cause expansion of the thyroid gland (a condition also known as goiter). Overactive thyroid cases can metamorphose into hyperthyroidism and even cancer.

Examples of some common symptoms that may arise from developing thyroid nodules include difficulty eating and pressure in your neck.

How ENTs treat thyroid nodules

Some patients experience one thyroid nodule, while others may have several nodules within their glands. In women, thyroid nodules can vary from very tiny to large sizes. For the most part, thyroid nodules are not cancerous and they do not show their symptoms. That said, the ENT specialist may prescribe extra medical evaluation and treatment when the nodules appear to cause severe problems to the patient.

Based on the type of nodule and the severity of the associated symptoms, ENT clinics may recommend different treatment options. On some occasions, ear, nose and throat specialists may resort to surgery where appropriate.

Additionally, ENT professionals may conduct the following examinations to help treat your thyroid nodule condition.

  • Thyroid function tests, including thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
  • Blood tests and radiological examination
  • Ultrasound scan to observe the sizes and appearance of the nodules
  • Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy. ENT doctors pass a small needle into the lump to pick tissue samples for pathological tests. The procedure is safe and almost painless.

Surgical treatment for cancerous thyroid conditions

As explained earlier, treatment techniques for thyroid conditions depend on the nature of the condition and whether ENT specialists are required. Ultrasound scans give ENT professionals a better understanding of the patients' thyroid situation and whether surgical procedures are necessary. Also, thyroid biopsy and surgery are safe options once medical examinations reveal more information about the condition. When you visit ENT specialists, they will usually take you through thyroid function tests, thyroid scans and ultrasonography.

All the above procedures are followed to verify whether the thyroid nodules are cancerous. Cancerous thyroid conditions often require entirely different treatment options.

On the other hand, benign thyroid nodules require hormone suppression therapy to correct the disorders. There are also anti-thyroid medications such as methimazole that effectively treat some categories of patients' thyroid conditions. Assuming your nodule size is relatively small, an ENT doctor may give you some time to wait so that they can monitor the growth of the tissue.