Thyroid Diseases & Disorders | MedStar Health

Medical illustration showing the location of the thyroid and parathyroid glands.The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the lower neck. It is a central gland of the endocrine system. It produces hormones that control your metabolism, which is how your body breaks down and processes the energy you get from food. Thyroid hormones also control how quickly your organs operate and how much oxygen they use. Managing thyroid disease is often complicated, since the disease can affect many different organs and functions

A variety of thyroid diseases can prevent the thyroid from keeping your metabolism in check. Some of the diseases we treat are listed below.

Thyroid Disorders

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The thyroid is one of several glands in the endocrine system. It is a butterfly shaped gland located in the front of the neck. An imbalance of hormone production can result in symptoms that develop across many organ systems in the body.


Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone, which controls metabolism. It is associated with a wide variety of symptoms, including:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Extreme tiredness, coupled with insomnia
  • Increased hunger, coupled with weight loss
  • Inexplicable anxiety or irritability
  • Inexplicable feeling of being hot
  • Increased sweating
  • Noticeable shaking of the fingers
  • Changes in menstruation
  • More frequent bowel movements
  • Swelling in the neck. Hyperthyroidism can be treated with medication, surgery, or, most effectively, with radioactive iodine therapy


Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid does not produce sufficient key hormones, gradually slowing the body's metabolism. Hypothyroidism is effectively treated with a hormone replacement regimen. Symptoms indicating hypothyroidism tend to increase in severity over time and include:

  • Excessive tiredness
  • Abnormal weight gain
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Inexplicable sensitivity to cold
  • Inexplicable anxiety and depression
  • Inexplicable forgetfulness
  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Extreme dryness of the hair and skin
  • Loss of hair
  • Less frequent bowel movements
  • Muscle pain
  • Changes in menstruation.

After careful evaluation, our team will develop a treatment plan based on the cause and severity of your symptoms. Options for treatment often include:

  • Long-term thyroid medication
  • Surgery to remove the thyroid
  • Radioactive iodine, which stops the thyroid from producing hormones

Following surgery or radioactive iodine treatment, our team will prescribe thyroid hormone-replacement pills.

A female doctor examines the neck of a female patient in a clinical setting.

Graves’ disease

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that produces antibodies to attack and stimulate the thyroid gland, which commonly leads to hyperthyroidism. Some patients with Graves’ disease require removal of the thyroid to control hyperthyroidism. Medication, radiation, and surgery also help those suffering from ophthalmopathy due to Graves' disease. Steroid medications can help reduce eye irritation and swelling.


A goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. It is not cancer. Goiters may need to be removed if they cause symptoms such as difficulty swallowing or breathing.


Thyroiditis, thyroid inflammation, often caused by a virus, can result in excess hormone leakage into the bloodstream.

Thyroid nodules

Thyroid nodules are groups of cells that grow in the thyroid. Nodules can either be benign or malignant. Most thyroid nodules are benign. Benign nodules do not spread beyond the thyroid. They may need to be removed if they cause symptoms such as difficulty swallowing or breathing. In some cases, though, thyroid nodules are malignant, or cancerous. Cancerous thyroid growths can affect the functioning of the thyroid and cause other symptoms, including difficulty swallowing and swelling in the neck.

Our providers

A group of 5 doctors from the MedStar Health Pituitary specialty group pose for a photo in the lobby of MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

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