Definition and Overview
Thyroid consultation is an appointment between the patient and a thyroid specialist called endocrinologist to determine whether an existing health condition is caused by the thyroid glands, diagnose a condition, manage the illness, or provide the best treatment for the patient.
The thyroids are a pair of butterfly-shaped glands found near the neck area. They are a part of the endocrine system and they secrete hormones called T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). T3 is the active hormone that affects various physiological processes in the body including body temperature and heart rate, among others. T4, on the other hand, is responsible for the regulation of metabolism. Collectively, these hormones also contribute to the maintenance of the bones as well as the development of the brain.
Hormones have to be produced by the body at an ideal level. Otherwise, changes, no matter how small, can have a significant negative impact on a person’s overall health.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
Thyroid consultation may be necessary when:
The glands have grown bigger or more pronounced
There’s a suspected mass on the thyroid
The patient is having a hard time swallowing
There is discomfort in the gland area
The patient is showing signs of thyroid trouble, which include but not limited to:
While these symptoms may indicate other conditions, a combination of them may point out issues with the thyroid glands.
A patient should also seek consultation if he’s already diagnosed with a thyroid condition, in which appointments will serve as follow-ups. Likewise, an appointment is needed before high-risk treatment plans such as surgery are conducted.
A consultation also takes place every time a patient seeks a second or even third opinion.
How Does the Procedure Work?
Often, patients are referred by general practitioners to an endocrinologist, a physician that specializes in endocrine-related disorders like thyroid problems.
The patient schedules an appointment with an endocrinologist in a hospital or clinic. All medical records and results of tests taken will be forwarded to the selected provider.
During the actual consultation, the doctor will interview the patient about the following:
- His or her overall health
- Primary concerns
- The appearance of the symptoms
- Family history
- History of other illnesses
The doctor will also carry out physical exams including heart rate and blood pressure monitoring. He will also feel the glands by pressing the fingertips gently around the neck area.
He may perform an ultrasound of the thyroid to get a better picture of the glands. Depending on the findings, the provider may recommend more tests including MRI or CT scans, as well as thyroid panel exams. The results may be available after a week, in which the patient returns to the clinic or hospital for a follow-up consultation.
From there, the endocrinologist may:
- Suggest a treatment plan
- Confirm the thyroid diagnosis
- Refer the patient to another specialist, perhaps a surgeon if there’s a mass growing
- Request for a biopsy if there’s a tumor
- Ask the patient to seek second opinion
Possible Risks and Complications
Thyroid consultation is generally safe as it does not require procedures to be performed or require the patient to take medications.
Guber HA, Farag AF. Evaluation of endocrine function. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 24.
Salvatore D, Davies TF, Schlumberger MJ, et al. Thyroid physiology and diagnostic evaluation of patients with thyroid disorders. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, Larsen PR, et al, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 11.