Since so many women and men experience thyroid problems, it’s important to understand what the thyroid gland is, what it does, what the symptoms are and how we treat various thyroid problems. Your thyroid gland is a large ductless, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck just below the larynx. It secretes hormones that regulate your growth and development through your rate of metabolism, which affects your weight. Your thyroid can become overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism). These conditions may, in rare instances, occur from birth, or they may develop later in life. Common thyroid problems can include:

Thyroid Nodule

A thyroid nodule is a solid or fluid-filled lump on your thyroid. Most thyroid nodules do not cause symptoms and do not require treatment. However, some larger or cancerous nodules may produce additional thyroid hormones, which require treatment with medication or surgery. Thyroid nodules occur most often in adults over 40 years of age, and most remain unaware of their presence.


This is an underactive thyroid gland that does not produce enough hormones. A hypothyroid can disrupt heart rate, body temperature and metabolism. Hypothyroidism is most prevalent in older women. The most common symptoms of hypothyroid are fatigue, constipation, unusual sensitivity to cold, dryer-than-normal skin and unexplained weight gain. The condition of hypothyroidism is often accompanied by enlargement of the thyroid gland, which is called a goiter (bulge on the lower neck). Women over 60 are more likely to have hypothyroidism, which upsets their normal balance of chemical reactions. In time, an untreated hypothyroid can cause many health problems, including obesity, heart disease, infertility and joint pain, among others.

Fortunately, accurate thyroid function tests can help us diagnose a hypothyroid. And we can treat hypothyroidism with a synthetic thyroid hormone that is usually safe and effective once you and your endocrinology specialist find the right dose.

Many Symptoms

The symptoms of hypothyroidism are many and varied, depending on the severity of your hormone deficiency. In general, these problems tend to develop slowly, often taking many years before you notice symptoms. You might barely notice symptoms of a hypothyroid such as fatigue and weight gain, or you may attribute these things to getting older. Then as your metabolism slows further, you may develop more-obvious symptoms and more of them, including:

  • Weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Impaired memory
  • High cholesterol
  • Muscle ache, tenderness and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness and swelling of joints
  • Heavier or irregular menstrual periods
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Thinning hair, hair loss
  • Depression

If we don’t treat hypothyroidism, it can gradually become worse. With constant stimulation of your thyroid to release more hormones, you may get an enlarged thyroid (goiter). You may also become more forgetful, your thought processes may slow or you may feel depressed.


Hyperthyroid is an overactive thyroid gland, the opposite of a hypothyroid. An overactive hyperthyroid produces more hormones than the body needs. This can increase your metabolism and cause you to lose weight unintentionally, along with a rapid irregular heartbeat, sweating and irritability. Keep in mind that many older adults experience no symptoms at all. Hyperthyroid can be treated in several ways, including with radioactive iodine, medication or even surgery.

Endocrinology specialists use anti-thyroid medications and radioactive iodine to slow the production of thyroid hormones. Hyperthyroid treatment sometimes involves surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid gland. It’s true that a hyperthyroid can be serious if you ignore it, but most people respond well once their hyperthyroidism has been diagnosed and properly treated.

Hyperthyroid Symptoms

Hyperthyroid can mimic other health conditions, which often makes it difficult to diagnose. It can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including:

  • Unintentional weight loss, even when food intake stays the same or increases
  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) of more than 100 beats a minute
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Pounding heart (palpitations)
  • Increased appetite
  • Nervousness, anxiety and irritability
  • Tremor usually in hands and fingers
  • Sweating
  • Changes in menstrual pattern
  • Increased sensitivity to heat
  • More frequent bowel movements
  • A goiter (swelling at the base of your neck)
  • Fatigue, muscle weakness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Thinning skin
  • Fine, brittle hair

Older adults are more likely to have either no signs or symptoms or subtle ones, such as an increased heart rate, heat intolerance and a tendency to become tired during ordinary activities.

What is Graves’ Ophthalmopathy?

On rare occasions a problem called Graves’ ophthalmopathy can affect your eyes, especially if you smoke. The condition makes your eyeballs protrude as the tissues and muscles behind them swell. Eye problems can often improve without treatment.

Symptoms of Graves’ ophthalmopathy include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Red or swollen eyes
  • Excessive tearing, discomfort in one or both eyes
  • Light sensitivity, blurry double vision, inflammation or reduced eye movement
  • Protruding eyeballs


The four small glands in your neck are called parathyroid glands. If these glands are hyperactive (hyperparathyroidism), they may be enlarged or affected by other diseases. Symptoms of hyperparathyroidism are typically slow to develop and may include excessive urination, fragile bones (osteoporosis) or even kidney stones. If this condition is mild, we may simply keep a close eye on it. If it is more severe, we may recommend surgery. Hyperparathyroidism is the overactivity of one or more of the body’s four parathyroid glands, which are about the size of grains of rice and located in your neck.

The parathyroid glands help maintain the right balance of calcium in your bloodstream and in those tissues that depend on calcium for proper functioning, such as bones and teeth.

Two Types of Hyperparathyroidism

There are two types of hyperparathyroidism. Primary hyperparathyroidism is an enlargement of one or more of the parathyroid glands, which causes hormone overproduction resulting in high levels of calcium in the blood (called hypercalcemia). This can cause a variety of health problems, and surgery is the most common treatment for primary hyperparathyroidism.

Secondary hyperparathyroidism is a result of another disease that initially causes low levels of calcium in the body and increases parathyroid hormone levels over time.

Symptoms of Hyperparathyroidism

We can often diagnose hyperparathyroidism before symptoms become apparent. When symptoms occur, they’re usually the result of damage or dysfunction in other organs or tissues caused by high calcium levels in blood and urine or too little calcium in bones. Your symptoms may be so mild that they don’t seem at all related to parathyroid function. or they may be severe. Symptoms may include:

  • Fragile bones that fracture easily (osteoporosis)
  • Kidney stones
  • Excessive urination
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Depression or forgetfulness
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Frequent feelings of illness with no apparent cause
  • Nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite

Discover leading-edge endocrinology for diabetes, hormones and thyroid problems. Call 713-797-9191 or use our Request an Appointment form. We welcome patients from Houston, West University, Bellaire, River Oaks, Sugar Land and nearby areas.


Dr. Bhagia was thoughtful and compassionate; excellent bedside manner. She really listened to me and explained my thyroid issues clearly. My visit was relatively quick and the staff was efficient and personable.

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