Thyroid disorders can disrupt body systems
"Thyroid disease is the leading endocrine disorder seen by doctors in their offices," says Ferrer, who would know, being an endocrinologist at Kelsey-Seybold Spring Medical and Diagnostic Center.
"Common thyroid conditions seen in the clinic include hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)," said Ferrer, who completed his endocrinology fellowship at the University of Texas Medical Branch in 1999. "These conditions, if not treated properly, in turn can lead to heart problems, lipid disorders, premature osteoporosis and neurological conditions, to name a few. Thyroid nodules are also commonly encountered, and about 5 to 10 percent of them could be cancerous.
"Screening can determine if the thyroid gland, which is in the neck, is under-functioning or over-functioning and can help detect thyroid nodules. Like in most conditions, it is important to detect the problem earlier to avoid long-term complications and help lower morbidity and mortality from the condition."
Symptoms of a possible thyroid disorder include unexplained weight change, fatigue, cold or heat intolerance, heart palpitations, tremors, constipation, diarrhea, skin or hair changes, menstrual irregularities, change in neck size or lump in the neck, Ferrer says.
"Chemistry panels done during complete physical examinations these days often include a TSH test, which is a good screening test for most patients," Ferrer explained. "Simple neck palpations can also detect most of the medically significant thyroid nodules. The thyroid gland helps regulate metabolism of virtually all the cells of the human body, and any imbalance in the hormones it makes can affect all organ-systems.
"Be aware of the symptoms that could suggest thyroid problems and consult your physician as soon as possible."
Ferrer also mentioned that thyroid problems, as with any abnormal conditions, during a pregnancy need to be dealt with quickly.
"Any thyroid condition needs to be diagnosed and treated appropriately during any pregnancy and in women who might conceive. Otherwise, infertility and miscarriages could be an issue. Even mild thyroid deficiency, especially if it occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy, when fetuses do not have a functioning thyroid yet, could lead to untoward consequences even years after being born."
Overall, those who think they might have a thyroid problem should head to the doctor's office.
"Thyroid conditions in general are more common in women," Ferrer said. "People who have a higher risk for thyroid problems include those with a family history of thyroid disease and a history of radiation exposure to the head or neck. People who take certain medications, and who have certain diets (low in iodine or high in intake of goitrogens -- such as peanuts and soybeans) are also at risk for thyroid problems.
"Treatment of thyroid conditions should be individualized and is best discussed with the endocrinologist," Ferrer concluded.
NAME: Dr. Dennis Ferrer
COMMUNITY CONNECTION: Works at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic The Woodlands in the Medical Arts Center II
FAST FACT: Ferrer enjoys playing Legos with his kids
Matt Mackinder is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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