Your thyroid is actually an incredibly important hormone gland located at the front lower part of your neck. The Endocrine Society explains that the thyroid is largely responsible for managing your metabolic rate. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry. It’s actually pretty simple. Your metabolic rate is the pace at which your body uses the calories you consume via food and drink. If the thyroid ceases to perform properly, then uncontrolled weight fluctuation is often a side effect.
In addition to controlling the way your body uses the energy derived from ingested calories, the thyroid also regulates the way your body consumes oxygen and produces heat. Both of these are clearly vital to your overall well-being. Any failure on the part of the thyroid can lead to a wide range of symptoms as a result. Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are the two most common thyroid conditions. How do you know when you need a thyroid ultrasound?
Hyper and Hypothyroidism
Hyperthyroidism refers to a condition in which the thyroid produces too much hormone. In these cases, Graves’ disease is commonly responsible. You may notice unexplained weight loss, excessive sweating, muscular weakness, rapid heartbeat, and irritability. The condition can have long-term consequences including osteoporosis. It is important to speak to your doctor about seeing an endocrinologist as soon as possible.
Hypothyroidism refers to a condition in which the thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. In these cases, you will typically notice sudden weight gain (5-10 lbs), feeling constantly cold, sluggishness, and mental depression. It is most common in women and people over the age of sixty, but it can affect anyone, especially if you have been diagnosed with Hashimoto disease.
What is a thyroid ultrasound?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, an ultrasound is used to assess the size of the thyroid gland. The ultrasound machine uses high-frequency sound waves to harmlessly penetrate the body and send echoes back to the machine. The echoes are used to reconstruct an image of the body tissues beneath the skin, so your technician and doctor can see the shape and size of your thyroid without surgery or radiation.
Although a simple blood test can be used to detect whether or not you suffer from hypo or hyperthyroidism, they will not indicate the reason to your doctor. An ultrasound is a necessary next step to finding out if there are nodules, cancerous growths, or a goiter growing on the thyroid, causing it to secrete abnormal levels of the thyroid hormone.
When to Get a Thyroid Ultrasound
Most of the time, your Beverly Hills physician will only order a thyroid ultrasound when they feel abnormal lumps in your neck at the site of the thyroid. In some cases, your doctor may also order a thyroid ultrasound if your thyroid function reads as abnormal in your bloodwork. However, they will not always do so if the cause of your abnormal thyroid function is easy for them to assess without one. Increasingly, thyroid ultrasounds are also being performed as part of regular physical examinations, especially for women and patients over 60. Therefore, if your doctor suggests one without apparent cause, then don’t worry, it’s most likely a precaution.
When you do receive your thyroid ultrasound, don’t be surprised if there are some initial abnormalities. Small nodules are very common and rarely disrupt normal thyroid function. A radiologist will be consulted and a biopsy may be required to definitively identify whether a nodule is benign. Fortunately, as long as you keep up with your physicals, you’ll catch possible cancerous growths in time.