Northland DHB General Medicine
Public Service, Internal Medicine
The thyroid is a gland that sits in the front, and towards the bottom of your neck. It is responsible for producing a hormone called thyroxin. Thyroxin has an important role in the body as it affects many organs including the heart, muscles and bones. Diseases that affect the thyroid can make it either overactive (producing too much thyroxin), underactive (not producing enough thyroxin) or enlarged (goitre). Endocrinologists specialise in these diseases as well as cancer of the thyroid.
Thyroid problems are usually picked up with a blood test but there are other tests you may have to work out why the problem has occurred. These include:
- an ultrasound scan. This is where a hand-held scanner head is passed over your thyroid gland and pictures are taken
- a nuclear medicine scan. This is where you are given something to drink that contains a substance that only goes to the thyroid gland. Although it is radioactive it does not damage you or anyone else. Pictures are then taken of the thyroid gland that gives the doctor information about what might be causing the problem
- fine needle aspirate (FNA). This is where the doctor puts a very fine needle (smaller than for a blood test) into the thyroid gland to take some cells to look at under the microscope.