The thyroid is a small gland located in the neck area just below the midway point between the chin and the chest. This gland is similar in shape to the wings of a butterfly and is responsible for the production and processing of thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism and other functions within the body. When problems arise in the thyroid, an affected individual may experience tightness in the neck, and the thyroid gland may be palpable using the fingers.
Thyroid problems often affect women in their early adult years, but they can create health problems for people of all ages. Additionally, symptoms of thyroid problems may be confused for symptoms of other conditions, leading some people to ignore their concerns.
In many cases, thyroid condition symptoms present themselves through weight control issues and problems with the cardiovascular system. Hyperthyroidism is one of the most common thyroid disorders and occurs when the thyroid overly produces hormones as part of the endocrine system. Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, is the inverse in which the thyroid does not produce enough hormones.
Graves’ Disease is another thyroid condition that causes the immune system to attack the thyroid when the auto-immune response mistakes the gland for a threat. Additionally, the development of a goiter, or non-cancerous growth, can lead to pain and discomfort as well as limited range of motion in the head, neck, jaw, shoulders and upper back.
How Are Thyroid Conditions Diagnosed?
If you’re concerned about a thyroid issue, or if you’ve been experiencing unexplained symptoms like weight loss or weight gain despite lifestyle changes, weakness and fatigue, brittle hair and nails or a racing heart rate, speak with your doctor to learn more about the potential for thyroid complications and treatment options for thyroid conditions.
If a thyroid condition is suspected, your doctor will likely need to conduct a physical exam of the neck and other places in the body where the endocrine system houses glands. This approach can explore any swelling that’s occurring, but it will not provide a detailed picture. In order to receive an in-depth view of how the thyroid is processing hormones, lab testing, including blood work, may be ordered.
A thyroid blood test measures the amount of hormones in the body and may help identify too much or too little thyroid activity. Other diagnostic tests may include imaging to visualize a swollen thyroid, but some cases may also require the use of medications to monitor and measure changes in the thyroid.
Does Medicare Cover Thyroid Testing and Treatment?
In most cases, Medicare coverage will apply to thyroid testing under Medicare Part B as long as the testing is ordered by a physician to diagnose or treat a medical concern. An exception to this may occur when someone experiences a health problem that requires hospital admittance and the thyroid is tested during the hospital stay. Thyroid testing that takes place during a stay in a hospital or skilled nursing facility may be covered by Medicare Part A. Part B helps cover medically necessary services that take place in an outpatient setting.
If you are diagnosed with a thyroid condition, there are a number of treatment options available, and they vary depending on the underlying cause of the problem as well as how advanced the condition has become. Some mild thyroid conditions may be treatable with medication, and those who qualify for Medicare benefits can usually receive coverage for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D. In more severe cases, treatment may involve surgery or the surgical removal of the thyroid altogether.