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GBMC Greater Living Discusses Thyroid Conditions

July 25, 2018
It’s a small, butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck, but don’t let its small size fool you. The thyroid plays an important role in your health. Dr. Ruth Horowitz, Chief, GBMC’s Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, talked with Mary Beth Marsden and Don Scott, about the top causes of thyroid disease and how an over- or underactive thyroid can affect everything from your heart rate to body temperature.

“The thyroid is like your body’s thermostat,” explained Dr. Horowitz. “If it’s underactive, which is called hypothyroidism and is the most common type of thyroid condition, you can feel tired, cold, have problems with your weight and have dry skin, hair loss, and constipation. If it’s overactive, known as hyperthyroidism, you can experience a fast heart rate, feel very energetic, be hot or sweaty, and have diarrhea. Unfortunately, these symptoms are fairly subtle and can be caused by a lot of health issues, so if you suspect you may have a thyroid issue, your primary care doctor can do a blood test to check your thyroid function.”

Dr. Horowitz said that most thyroid problems are caused by autoimmune diseases that interfere with the thyroid’s ability to function and can be treated with medication. Surgery is an option if the gland becomes very large and presses on the nerves, blood vessels, or trachea. She also talked about thyroid cancer. “In 90% of cases, nodules in the thyroid are benign,” she said. “In the other 10% of cases that are caused by cancer, there’s a very low mortality rate and most cancers are successfully treated with surgery.”

And while there are plenty of supplements and diets on the market that claim to help your thyroid work better, Dr. Horowitz said, “There is nothing you can consume to fix your thyroid. In fact, iodine supplements, including kelp supplements, can be dangerous and can make your thyroid condition worse.”

She answered questions about why endocrinologists recommend brand name rather than generic thyroid medications, why it’s important to take your medication on an empty stomach and at a different time than any other medications you take, and what can increase your risk of an underactive thyroid.

Mary Beth and Don were also joined by patient Donyel Cerceo, who shared the story of her diagnosis with thyroid cancer, her surgery, and her quick recovery. Said Donyel, “I had no symptoms, but I was seeing Dr. Horowitz because I have type 1 diabetes and she discovered a small nodule. I’m thankful that, with Dr. Horowitz and my surgeon Dr. Joel Turner, I have the best team on my side.”

0:00 to 47:45 — Ruth Horowitz, MD, Chief, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at GBMC and partner with Bay West Endocrinology Associates discuss management of a thyroid disorder.

47:46 to 58:49 — Hear from a patient about the importance of regular thyroid check-ups.

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