The thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly and makes thyroid hormone, which regulates metabolism and is involved in many different bodily functions. There are usually four parathyroid glands, which are the size of a grain of rice. They control the level of calcium in the blood.

Endocrine surgeons take care of patients who need surgery to remove the thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal glands and the pancreas. We treat a wide range of problems, including abnormal growths on the thyroid, thyroid cancer, overactive parathyroid glands, known as hyperparathyroidism, lumps on the adrenal glands and endocrine tumors found in the pancreas and elsewhere.

Many patients with thyroid disease do not have any symptoms, which is why it is extremely important for the thyroid to be examined as part of the yearly physical exam. Large lumps on these glands can occasionally cause symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, and even hoarseness.

Patients with parathyroid disease develop problems because one or more of the four parathyroid glands becomes enlarged and leads to the level of calcium in the blood being too high. Patients are often diagnosed when routine blood work shows a high calcium level. Some patients have no symptoms, but other patients can have kidney stones, osteoporosis, extreme fatigue, bone pain and problems with memory and concentration.

Editor’s Note: UofL Today reprints To Your Health articles from the “UofL Physicians-Insider” newsletter. Read the entire January Issue (opens as a PDF document).