A thyroid neck check can help you identify potential health issues. Most of the body’s human parts are reliant on the thyroid hormone.
If you’re suspecting a thyroid disorder, try doing a thyroid neck check. It can help you be more self-aware of any symptoms and describe them to your doctor in detail.
In this article:
- What Is a Thyroid Disorder?
- What Causes Thyroid Problems?
- What Are the Risk Factors of Developing Thyroid Disorders?
- What Are the Treatment Options for Thyroid Problems?
- Steps to Check Your Neck
- What to Eat and Not to Eat to Improve Thyroid Function
- Ways to Keep a Healthy Thyroid
How to Perform a Thyroid Neck Check
What Is a Thyroid Disorder?
Thyroid problems or disorders can range from an enlarged thyroid to thyroid cancer. The most common condition is an abnormality in the production of the thyroid hormones.
Too much of these hormones can lead to hyperthyroidism, while a lack of them can result in hypothyroidism. Its symptoms and effects can be uncomfortable, but most of these thyroid problems are manageable if treated at an early stage.
What Causes Thyroid Problems?
An overactive thyroid may occur in several ways, such as:
- Cancerous growths in the thyroid
- Pituitary gland malfunctions
- Inflammation of the gland that causes the organ to leak excess thyroid hormones
- Nodules grow in the thyroid
- Too much hormone production
If the thyroid problem revolves around an underactive thyroid, it has several causes, including:
- Exposure to lithium and excessive amounts of iodine
- Removal of the thyroid
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
Lithium Definition: A drug to treat manic episodes of depression such as rushed speech or hyperactivity
Thyroid cancer is rare, and you might experience having nodules for a certain time before they become cancerous. Those who were exposed to radiation as a treatment for other types of diseases may have a higher risk of developing a cancerous thyroid.
What Are the Risk Factors of Developing Thyroid Disorders?
Your lifestyle can significantly affect your thyroid health, and these are some risk factors:
- History of lithium or iodine use in high amounts
- Trauma to or injury of the thyroid
- Psychological stress like divorce, major financial problems, or a loss of a loved one
- Smoking, as cigarettes contain chemicals that can prohibit the absorption of iodine and thyroid hormone production and can cause inflammation of the organ
For an underactive thyroid, the risk factors include:
- Pituitary gland problems
- Pre-existing autoimmune condition like type 1 diabetes
- Women over 60 years old
The risk factors of an overactive thyroid are as follows:
- Past trauma to the thyroid gland
- Vitamin D and selenium deficiencies
- Family or personal history of autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis
What Are the Treatment Options for Thyroid Problems?
If you have hyperthyroidism, surgery, anti-thyroid medication, and radioactive iodine treatment can slow down or stop hormone production. In some cases, you might need more than one therapy to normalize thyroid hormone production.
Your symptoms may start to disappear in about six to eight weeks when you take anti-thyroid medications. In most cases, you need to take the medicines for a year, and by then, your doctor will check back on your thyroid.
You may also need regular check-ups while still taking the medication to make sure your hormones stay balanced.
No complimentary medicine or surgery can enhance your thyroid hormone production once the organ starts to slow down. You need to take thyroid hormone replacement for life.
Your doctor may prescribe you with man-made forms of the hormones, but side effects can still be rarely present.
If you have thyroid cancer, removing the cancerous tissue or the entire organ is the most common treatment option.
Steps to Check Your Neck
Step 1: Check Yourself in Front of a Mirror
To start your thyroid neck check at home, find a standalone, mid-to-full-length mirror. A handheld mirror might restrict you to do a more detailed inspection.
Get in front of the mirror so you can inspect your neck with clarity. Wear an open-neck shirt and remove obstructive accessories such as a necklace or choker.
Step 2: Stretch Your Neck Out
Recline your head. From your viewpoint, you must still be able to see your neck.
Look up and set your sights towards the ceiling. For better viewing, you can arch your neck from side to side.
Be careful with overstretching as you can strain your neck.
Step 3: Drink Water and Swallow
Drink water and swallow while keeping your neck stretched. This allows you to move your larynx forward.
You can already spot or feel some irregularities in your thyroid if you do this. Continue holding this position and drink more water if you need to inspect more than once.
Take note if you feel a thyroid pain in front of the neck or a thyroid pain on the right side so you can emphasize this to your doctor.
Step 4: Check for Unusual Thyroid Gland Growth
Look for any sort of lumps, swelling, or bumps that will appear at this point of your thyroid neck check. Disregard your Adam’s apple and emphasize on the cricoid ring.
The cricoid ring encircles your windpipe or trachea. Focus your inspection closer to your collarbone.
This location is closest to the thyroid gland. Also, note if the thyroid or lymph nodes are swollen.
Step 5: Feel Your Neck Using Your Hands
Use your sense of touch to inspect your thyroid area. Your hands can detect abnormalities your other senses can’t.
Sometimes, these bumps, enlargements, or protrusions can roll beneath your fingers. Again, repeat inspection until you’re complacent.
Step 6: Document Your Observations
Don’t rely on your memory to remember everything in your thyroid neck check. From time to time, jot down your observations on a piece of paper.
Take photos if you can. These will help you give a detailed picture and description of your thyroid health.
Step 7: Share Your Results with a Doctor
Once you have your documentation in place, make an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor can help interpret any swollen thyroid gland symptoms.
Share your thoughts or questions from your thyroid neck check. Your doctor can consider them.
If you have a thyroid issue, your doctor can come up with an action plan to help remedy it. To check your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level, here are some necessary pituitary gland tests:
- TSH test
- Thyroid ultrasound
- Thyroid scan
- Fine-needle aspiration
- Blood tests
Here is a list of possible thyroid problems:
- Thyroid nodules – This thyroid disease is the unusual formation of cells or nodules within the thyroid gland. It is also one of the common hypothyroidism symptoms. Doctors may take samples from this clump to be sure it’s not cancerous.
- Thyroglossal duct cyst – This is another lump-like cell development within the thyroid gland. It emerges during the development stage of the thyroid gland.
- Hashimoto’s disease or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a thyroid disorder where the person’s immune system attacks the body’s thyroid. He or she experiences hypothyroidism symptoms that include muscle weakness, enlarged tongue, weight gain, and excessive menstrual bleeding.
- Toxic multinodular goiter – Goiter is a hereditary thyroid disease that can result in an enlarged thyroid gland. Its symptoms of hyperthyroidism include rapid heartbeat and weight gain. Iodine deficiency is also a culprit to this thyroid condition.
- Medullary thyroid cancer – The thyroid nodule formation becomes massive and blocks the esophagus. Due to this, difficulty in breathing and swallowing is possible. According to the American Thyroid Association, this is a common thyroid problem of cancer patients in the U.S. Total thyroidectomy is recommended.
What to Eat and Not to Eat to Improve Thyroid Function
Your diet plays an important role in keeping a healthy thyroid, and it’s best to know which foods are good or bad for the gland.
What to eat
- Maca – It is a Peruvian plant that can help balance the function of the pituitary and hypothalamus, producing TSH and thyroid-releasing hormone, respectively. These are hormones that regulate T4.
- Sea vegetables – These are full of iodine, an essential nutrient needed for the thyroid hormone.
- Brazil nuts – These are rich in selenium that aids in converting T4 into its active form.
- Foods rich in antioxidants – Berries, lean meat, tea, and onions and garlic are great sources of antioxidants, substances that help fight free radical damage to the thyroid cells.
What not to eat
- Artificial sweeteners – Aspartame and saccharin are common artificial sweeteners, and they can alter how your body regulates glucose and the composition of the digestive flora. This can trigger autoimmune disorders, which are risk factors for developing thyroid problems.
- Soy protein isolates – It’s the extracted protein from soybeans that can mimic estrogen, which can interfere with the thyroid function. It can also disrupt thyroid medication absorption.
- Gluten – It’s a type of protein in wheat that can trigger thyroid antibody production, leading to the organ’s damage and inflammation.
Ways to Keep a Healthy Thyroid
1. Reduce Stress
Stress can slow down your metabolism and thyroid function as it lowers the levels of your T3 and T4. If the balance of these hormones become abnormal, you may experience an increase in thyroid dysfunction symptoms.
To reduce stress levels, always make sure to relax each day by listening to soothing music, having a massage, taking an aromatic bath, or spending time with your loved ones.
Performing regular exercise can boost your metabolism and help manage signs and symptoms of thyroid disorders like unwanted weight gain or fatigue. You can start with a light workout if you are still a beginner like walking, jogging, or doing household chores for at least 30 minutes daily.
Meditation can enhance levels of your thyroid hormone as it neutralizes your metabolism and lowers stress levels. You can try yoga poses at home or enroll in yoga classes to perform the activity correctly
4. Get a Good Night’s Sleep Daily
A lack of sleep increases stress levels and slows down your metabolism. It also lowers your energy levels as you get sleepy often during the day.
Before going to bed, make sure your room is convenient for sleeping, you’re relaxed, and your mind is clear from things, so you achieve restful sleep. You can also read your favorite novels, talk to a loved one, or listen to a soothing melody to help you sleep faster.
5. Get Regular Checkups
Regular checkups are important to monitor your thyroid, especially if you’re already experiencing several symptoms. It’s easier for your doctor to track your other health concerns that could affect your thyroid function.
Schedule a regular checkup with your doctor as soon as you can so you know if you need a thyroid test.
If you feel you have some thyroid issues, take action and perform a thyroid neck check on your own. It can get scary to feel something unusual, but it’s always best to be aware of your health condition.
After all, prevention is better than cure.
Have you done a thyroid neck check on your own? How was your evaluation? Share your experience with us in the comments section below!
- Nodule On Thyroid Gland? What To Do Next
- 19 Low Thyroid Diet Recipes And Diet Tips | Hypothyroid Diet Plan
- Reverse Leptin Resistance In 9 Ways
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 10, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.