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What is the Thyroid Gland and What Does It Do?

The thyroid, located in the front lower region of the neck, is a gland that produces thyroid hormones. These hormones are necessary for many bodily functions, as they impact our muscles, bones, skin, heart, brain, liver, kidneys, digestive tract, and more. Primarily, surgery is performed only after the thyroid is deemed suspicious by a biopsy. Unusual findings, or a biopsy that shows signs of cancer, may indicate a number of problems in your endocrine system. Operations, medication, or other therapies are advised for patients who have a variety of thyroid conditions.

Dr. Jason Cohen, Founding Partner of the Surgery Group of Los Angeles, walks you through the basics of thyroid health and the signs of possible thyroid-related illness. Watch to learn more about this incredibly important part of the body!

What is Hyperthyroidism?

Definition: Hyperparathyroidism is often a debilitating disease that takes a large toll on the entire body. In most cases, a parathyroid tumor is located in one of the four parathyroid glands. Often the tumor is benign, called a parathyroid adenoma. As the tumor grows, it begins to release greater than normal amounts of PTH, causing Primary Hyperparathyroidism. Simply put, Primary Hyperparathyroidism is an excess of parathyroid hormone in the bloodstream due to overactivity of one or more of the parathyroid glands.

What Causes Hyperthyroidism?

The leading cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease, a disorder that causes the thyroid to become inflamed and unable to produce enough thyroid hormone.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

  • Weakening of the bones or osteoporosis
  • Fatigue, memory loss, poor concentration, anxiety, and depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Rhythm abnormalities in the heart and heart palpitations
  • Intestinal issues such as acid reflux and constipation

What are Nodules?

Definition: Cancerous and benign (non-cancerous) growths are called nodules.

Causes: Iodine deficiency, overgrowth of normal thyroid tissue, cysts, chronic inflammation of the thyroid (thyroiditis)

Symptoms: Benign nodules, while not life-threatening, may cause symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, intolerance to heat, nervousness, irritability, trouble sleeping, and rapid or irregular heartbeat. This is because the nodules are producing extra hormones. Additionally, swelling of the thyroid glands can cause difficulty in breathing and swallowing.

Beyond understanding what a thyroid nodule is, it is also recommended that you learn how to check for lumps in you throat and understand the different types of nodules that exist.

How is Thyroid Cancer Treated?

Endocrine disorders can be treated surgically and non-surgically, depending on the severity of symptoms and the TSH levels measured by a thyroid blood test. There are several types of thyroid surgery that a surgeon may perform, including:

1. Excisional biopsy – Removal of a small part of the thyroid gland

2. Lobectomy – Removal of half of the thyroid gland

3. Total thyroidectomy – Removal of all identifiable thyroid tissues

A lobectomy is a surgery in which half of the thyroid is removed when removing a nodule and, in some cases, a thyroidectomy is necessary for complete gland removal, as well as removal of the lymph nodes surrounding the gland. Depending on what’s right for you and your condition, our surgeons may offer other forms of nonsurgical therapy that will, with time, regulate your endocrine activities.

In general, thyroid surgery is best performed by a surgeon who has received special training and who performs thyroid surgery on a regular basis. At The Surgery Group of Los Angeles, we have one of the country’s top thyroid surgical oncologist. SGLA’s founding father Dr. Jason Cohen is on the forefront of thyroid cancer treatment and prevention.

Dr. Cohen is also the only surgeon in the Los Angeles area trained in robotic (Da Vinci) thyroid surgery. He also specializes in minimally invasive surgery, leaving a minimal scar that isn’t noticeable. The incision will be cosmetically located to ensure it isn’t visible in most situations.

Procedure Expectations

If it’s determined that thyroid surgery is the best thyroid treatment for your situation, it may calm your nerves to know what to expect. Surgery can be a scary experience for some patients, and we want to ensure that you feel safe and relaxed before your procedure.

Dr. Cohen, our highly experienced thyroid surgeon, specializes in minimally invasive surgery. Traditional thyroid surgeries leave a large, noticeable mark on the neck, but Dr. Cohen has perfected the use of a small incision that won’t leave you feeling unconfident after surgery.



During the Procedure

During the procedure, you will receive general anesthesia, which means that you won’t be conscious. Once you’re unconscious, the thyroid surgeon will make a small incision in the center of your neck. The surgeon will then remove a portion of your thyroid or the entire gland. The procedure typically lasts a few hours, depending on the type of surgery required.

woman standing smiling

After the Procedure

Once the procedure is over, you may experience a weak or hoarse voice along with neck pain. This is often a result of nerve irritation that occurs during most surgeries. You are able to eat and drink as usual, and you may be able to go home the same day. Your surgeon will determine the best aftercare for your specific situation.

Once you’ve left the hospital, you can usually return to your routine activities within a week. You will want to wait at least two weeks before doing any strenuous activity.

If you’ve been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, you want to receive the best care possible. Our team of experts provides top-notch thyroid surgery in Los Angeles. No matter the type of surgery you require, you can count on us for treatment that allows you live a healthier and happier life.

thyroid example

Reviewing TSH Levels: What Is Normal?

There are all sorts of factors that are used as markers to indicate your thyroid health. One of these factors concerns the TSH levels in your blood. By looking at results from a simple blood test, a doctor can determine if you suffer from hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. In fact, using these levels is an ideal way to not only understand your thyroid health but to also determine the most ideal treatment option.

What Is TSH?

TSH, which stands for thyroid stimulating hormone, is a hormone that is produced by the pituitary gland. TSH stimulates the production of triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which are produced by the thyroid gland.

In the pituitary gland, another hormone, known as thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), stimulates the release of TSH. As TSH goes into the thyroid, the levels are dictated by T3 and T4 levels in your blood.

The Link Between T3, T4, and TSH

If your body has low levels of T3 and T4, more TSH is produced in order to stimulate the thyroid. On the other hand, when T3 and T4 level are high, the body produces less TSH.

While TSH levels are heavily dependent on T3 and T4 levels, there are other factors that have an influence, including:

  • Genetics
  • Iodine deficiency or excess
  • Pregnancy
  • Medications
  • Inflammation of the thyroid gland
  • Thyroid cancer

Because TSH is symbiotic with thyroid hormones, TSH levels are often observed as a way to determine your thyroid health. Low TSH and T3/T4 levels often indicate hypothyroidism, while low TSH levels and high T3/T4 levels are signs of an overactive thyroid.

woman not smiling

Understanding TSH Levels

In adults, the average TSH level ranges from 0.4 to 4.0 mIU/L. Ideal levels are below 2.5, and anything above 2.5 is considered at-risk. Levels above 4.0 mIU/L are a good indication of an underactive thyroid gland, also known as hypothyroidism. For levels below 0.4 mIU/L, chances are that the thyroid is overactive—also known as hyperthyroidism.

Unless you’re already scheduled for a blood test, chances are you won’t know that your TSH levels are potentially imbalanced. This means that it’s crucial to understand the symptoms of hypothyroidism as well as hyperthyroidism.

Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, fatigue, weakness, dry skin, hair loss, and irritability. Hyperthyroidism causes symptoms, including appetite changes, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and increased sweating.

Treatment for TSH Level Imbalances

Treatment for TSH level imbalances requires properly treating the underlying thyroid condition. If you experience any of the symptoms above, it’s important to seek medical attention to receive the treatment you need. For most patients, medication is useful in balancing thyroid hormone levels. For others, surgery may be required to remove a part of the gland.

Professional Thyroid Treatment

Do you suffer from the symptoms of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism? If so, make today the day you take charge of your health. At the Surgery Group of LA, our doctors are experienced in diagnosing and treating thyroid conditions. Call our office today at 310-289-1518 to schedule an appointment and to get your thyroid health back to optimal levels.

throat xray

What Is a Thyroid Nodule? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options Explained

Thyroid nodules affect up to 50% of the population 1 and in some cases may require surgical removal. Let’s take the mystery out of this common condition and explore the treatment options.

Do you have a lump in your throat?

A nodule is just that, a lump or growth on the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located in the throat and produces hormones that regulate metabolism. These lumps can occur in groups and may be solid or filled with fluid. 90% of thyroid nodules are non-cancerous, 2 and the remaining 10% are rarely life-threatening.

Nodules are more common in women than in men. Your risk of developing nodules increases with age, exposure to radiation, and may have a genetic component.

The Types of Nodules Include:

  • Multinodular Goiter. A goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid, including those caused by multiple nodules. One cause is iodine deficiency, which is very rare in the US due to the availability of iodized salt.
  • Thyroid Cancer. Most nodules are not cancerous, but if they are hard, large, or cause pain they become one of the primary thyroid removal reasons. If there is concern that a nodule might be cancerous, a biopsy will be needed, and thyroid surgery may be the best option for treatment.
  • Adenomas. These are an overgrowth of normal thyroid tissues. They may be classified as warm (producing normal hormones), cold (producing no hormones), or hot (over-producing hormones).
  • Thyroid Cysts. When an adenoma begins to degenerate, it may turn into a fluid-filled cyst. These are typically benign but may contain solid tissues that should be checked for cancer risk.
  • Thyroiditis. This is a chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland which may be caused by bacteria or a condition known as Hashimoto’s disease, which causes hypothyroidism.
man touching throat

What are the Symptoms of Thyroid Nodules?

Very small nodules may not be noticeable. Unless you notice the lump yourself, it will probably be found during a doctor’s examination.

  • Hormone-related symptoms: rapid irregular heartbeat, unexplained weight changes, nervousness, fatigue, depression, and constipation.
  • Enlargement-related symptoms: visible enlargement, difficulty swallowing or breathing, hoarse voice, or pain at the base of the neck.

When is Thyroid Surgery the Best Treatment?

If you experience any of the above symptoms or if a biopsy indicates there is a risk of cancer, thyroid surgery may be the best option for a full recovery. 3 Your thyroid surgeon will fully explain the procedure which will involve removal of the nodules or, depending on your diagnosis, may include a partial or complete removal of the thyroid gland.

How Long Does it Take to Recover From Thyroid Surgery?

Utilizing minimally invasive surgery techniques at the Surgery Group of LA, thyroid surgery recovery is quick and easy. Your thyroid surgeon will use the best technology available to minimize pain and eliminate visible scarring. You may be able to go home the same day, and be back at work in a week, although you should avoid strenuous activity for two weeks.

We believe everyone is entitled to the best possible care and a comfortable patient experience before, during, and after necessary surgery. Reach out to us today at 310-289-1518 to schedule an examination and learn more about your options, including the robotic Da Vinci technique!