The thyroid and parathyroid glands are endocrine glands located at the base of the neck. Though they are located in close proximity to each other, they have completely different functions.
The thyroid gland produces thyroid hormone, and primarily regulates the body’s metabolism. Each person has one thyroid gland, which is a butterfly shaped gland with a right side and a left side. Too little thyroid hormone can cause symptoms of fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, and hair loss. Too much thyroid hormone can cause symptoms of weight loss, sweating, heart palpitations, and tremors of the extremities. Nodules, or small growths within the thyroid gland, are very common, and approximately 85-90% of them are benign. Thyroid nodules which are cancerous or suspicious for cancer cells generally warrant surgical excision. An overactive thyroid gland can be treated with anti-thyroid medications, radioactive iodine, or surgery.
Each person has four parathyroid glands, two on the right, and two on the left. These glands work together to produce parathyroid hormone (PTH), which regulates the blood calcium levels in the body. Parathyroid disease occurs when one or more of the glands produce too much hormone which results in elevations of the body’s calcium levels. It is generally one gland which develops a benign growth called an adenoma, but occasionally there are two abnormal glands, and rarely all four parathyroid glands can be overactive in a condition called parathyroid hyperplasia. Surgery is the only definitive treatment for primary hyperparathyroidism, where the overactive parathyroid glands are the source of the problem.
For more information on thyroid and parathyroid diseases, visit www.thyroidandparathyroid.com.