Thyroid & Parathyroid
Thyroid disease is a common condition that occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce the proper amount of hormones needed by the body. Thyroid hormones help regulate the body's heart rate, temperature and metabolism. A malfunctioning gland may be producing too much or too little of these hormones for a number of different reasons, such as an autoimmune disease, exposure to radiation, reaction to medication or pregnancy.
Hyperthyroidism is an overproduction of thyroid hormones, while hypothyroidism is an underproduction. Although these are different conditions, both can lead to enlargement of the thyroid gland, heart problems and other complications. Treatment for thyroid conditions usually includes medication to increase or decrease hormone production, or surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland.
The parathyroid glands are four small glands located behind the thyroid that regulate the calcium level in the body. By controlling the amount of calcium in the body, the parathyroid glands also control the strength and density of the bones. This also helps regulate the function of the nervous and muscular systems.
Although similar in name and location to the thyroid gland, the two are not related in function. The parathyroid glands can, however, be affected by conditions similar to the thyroid gland and other endocrine system structures by producing too much or too little parathyroid hormones.
The most common condition of the parathyroid glands is hyperparathyroidism, or overactivity of the parathyroid gland. This involves an overproduction of parathyroid hormone (PTH) regardless of the amount of calcium in the blood. Although not a cancerous condition, hyperparathyroidism is often caused by a tumor on the parathyroid gland, known as an adenoma, which enlarges the specific gland and forces it to continuously secrete PTH. Most people with hyperparathyroidism have only one enlarged gland, but others can have all four affected by the condition.
Hyperparathyroidism is known as a condition of "moans, groans, stones, and bones." Many people do not realize they had any symptoms until undergoing treatment and feeling much better as a result, while others really may not experience any symptoms. Common symptoms of hyperparathyroidism can include:
- Increased thirst and urination
- Kidney stones
- Abdominal pain
Treatment for this hyperparathyroidism depends on the symptoms and severity of the condition. Your doctor may recommend just waiting and monitoring the condition for mild cases, while those with symptoms may benefit from medication or hormone replacement therapy. Surgery is considered the most effective treatment for hyperparathyroidism and removes one or more parathyroid glands. While this procedure once required a long incision and general anesthesia, it can now be performed through minimally invasive techniques to reduce the risk of infection and shorten recovery time.
Although hyperparathyroidism is not a serious condition, it can lead to complications such as osteoporosis, peptic ulcers and high blood pressure. Your doctor can help you decide which treatment option is best for you in order to relieve symptoms and reduce the risk of future damage.
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