Thyroid Q&A with Dr. Aliabadi

Friday, April 19, 2019

Shaghayegh Aliabadi, MD, FACS

What made you interested in thyroid and other endocrine disorders?

Over the last 18 years, I have come to appreciate and respect the sophisticated anatomy of the neck and its many vital structures. I enjoy treating patients with thyroid disorders because there are good therapeutic options available for these conditions. Even in the case of patients with thyroid cancer, the prognosis in most cases is excellent and surgery is often curative.

What is a fact the average patient wouldn’t know about the thyroid?

I often hear from patients that they had a “thyroid blood test” that was normal and so they are surprised when they learn that they have a suspicious nodule or growth in their thyroid. It is important to recognize the differences between the two types of thyroid abnormalities: functional and anatomical. Functional problems arise when the thyroid gland either over or underproduces thyroid hormone. A blood test can alert us to a functional problem. Anatomical problems are seen when either the entire gland enlarges to form a goiter or when nodules or growths form in the thyroid, some of which may be cancerous. Many patients with an anatomical problem or even thyroid cancer have normal thyroid function and normal laboratory tests. A normal blood test does not indicate the absence of thyroid nodules which are often detected by clinical exam or imaging.

Does gender affect thyroid health?

Thyroid hormone abnormalities, as well as the presence of thyroid nodules, are both more common in women. Fortunately, the majority of thyroid nodules are benign and not cancerous. Though thyroid nodules form less frequently in men when they do occur they have a higher risk of being cancerous.

What should patients look for to monitor their own thyroid health?

Thyroid nodules can often be silent and have no symptoms, so it’s important to have your healthcare provider examine your neck for the presence of nodules at your annual check-up. Patients who experience symptoms often notice a “lump” in the front part of their neck. Other symptoms associated with an enlarged thyroid gland include a pressure sensation in the neck, difficulty swallowing, frequent throat clearing or voice changes. In contrast, patients with abnormal hormone production often have clear symptoms. Signs of underproduction of this hormone can include dry skin, fatigue, weight gain and feeling cold. Patients with excess thyroid hormone production often experience weight loss, feeling warm, tremors and palpitations.