What is a thyroid?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck in the front of the windpipe. In healthy people, the thyroid makes just the right amounts of two hormones, T4 and T3, which perform important actions throughout the body. These hormones regulate many aspects of our metabolism, affecting everything from our temperature, mood, muscle strength and appetite to heart rate.
What are thyroid disorders?
When something goes wrong with the thyroid, it is often because the hormones produced by the gland are off balance.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone in an uncontrolled manner. The gland also may become enlarged. Because the body's metabolism is increased, patients may feel hotter than other people and often lose weight even though they may be eating more. Patients usually experience fatigue, but have trouble sleeping. Trembling of the hands and hard or irregular heart beats may develop. Patients may become irritable and easily upset.
Hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland is unable to produce enough thyroid hormone to meet the body's needs. It often results from thyroid gland inflammation or from previous treatment for an overactive thyroid gland. Patients may have fatigue, constipation, memory loss and depression. They may be intolerant to cold and may have a slower heart rate. Dry hair and skin are seen in some patients. Others have no symptoms at all.
Yet another common thyroid condition occurs when thyroid nodules arise within the gland. Most thyroid nodules are not cancers, and very few will ever interfere with a person's health. But if a patient has pain or difficulty swallowing related to the nodule, he or she should be examined by a physician.
How common are thyroid disorders?
Hyperthyroidism affects about two in every 1,000 people. Hypothyroidism is about 10 times more common. Some degree of hypothyroidism may affect as many as 10 percent of all women.
Is there a test for thyroid disorders?
Yes, virtually all cases of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism can be detected through a simple TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) blood test. To help distinguish among various causes of thyroid disorders and develop a treatment plan, other tests may be performed.
Where can I get the blood test?
Beginning in April, The Kelly G. Ripken Program will offer the TSH blood test free at three Baltimore sites: the Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center, Johns Hopkins at Green Spring Station in Lutherville and Pro-Health in West Baltimore. Appointments for TSH screening can be made by calling the Ripken Program at (410) 614-1174 or toll-free 1 (888) 595-2131.
Where is The Kelly G. Ripken Program housed?
The Kelly G. Ripken Program does not have physical walls, but is under the umbrella of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The program's resources are easily accessible by telephone and on the Internet. In addition, two patient libraries will be established at Johns Hopkins' East Baltimore campus and its Green Spring Station location.
How do I find out more information about The Kelly G. Ripken Program?
You can call the program at (410) 614-1174 or toll-free 1 (888) 595-2131. You can look up the program's Web site (http://thyroid-ripken.med.jhu.edu). Or write to The Kelly G. Ripken Program, c/o Johns Hopkins Medicine, 1830 E. Monument, Suite 400, Baltimore, MD 21205.