The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland found at the base of the neck, below the Adam’s apple. A crucial part of the endocrine system, the thyroid gland secretes hormones that control metabolism, body temperature, growth and development.
Thyroid disease occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism) hormones. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include anxiety, weight loss, trouble sleeping, a thyroid lump or a goiter, among others. Hypothyroidism symptoms, on the other hand, include fatigue, weight gain, forgetfulness, intolerance to cold temperatures, among others.
Thyroid disease treatment aims to restore normal thyroid hormone levels. At a thyroid clinic, treatment options include anti-thyroid drugs, radioactive iodine, beta-blockers, thyroid replacement medication, and thyroid surgery. In many cases, thyroid cancer can be effectively treated with targeted treatment. Speak to a trusted thyroid expert or thyroid surgeon if you suspect you may have thyroid disease.
The salivary glands are a group of organs that produce a watery substance or saliva through a series of ducts. Aside from protecting the teeth and other soft tissues, saliva also lubricates the oral cavity that helps with speech and taste. There are three paired major salivary glands: parotid, submandibular, and sublingual.
When there are problems with the salivary glands or ducts, symptoms like dry mouth, pain, fever, salivary gland swelling, and foul-tasting drainage into the mouth may arise. The most common cause of salivary gland disorder is blocked saliva glands due to salivary stones or buildup of crystallized saliva deposits.
Treatment options for salivary gland diseases depend on the cause. For example, salivary stones and other blockages start with simple measures such as warm compresses. If they don’t relieve the blockage, surgery may then be needed. For parotid lumps, parotid surgery is an option.
The nasopharynx is located at the upper part of the throat, behind the nose. It is a passageway of air drifting from the nose to the throat and into the lungs.
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma is a type of head and neck cancer that starts in the nasopharynx. It causes no symptoms in the early stages, making it hard to detect early. However, possible symptoms include a lump in the neck, blood in saliva, bloody discharge from the nose, nasal congestion, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, frequent ear infections, sore throat, and headaches.
Treatments for nasopharyngeal carcinoma often include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, head and neck surgery, targeted drug therapy, and immunotherapy. At a specialist head and neck clinic, the recommended treatment plan will be tailored to each individual’s condition.
Mouth or Oral Cavity
The mouth, also known as the oral cavity, is the first step of digestion. The mouth receives the food, ground up by the teeth, and mixed with saliva to prepare it for digestion in the stomach and small intestines. Any problems in the mouth can result in difficulty eating, drinking and more.
Common mouth problems include oral ulcers (e.g cold sores and canker sores), tonsil problems, dry mouth syndrome, acid reflux resulting in irritation in the throat, and more.
Mouth disorder treatments vary depending on the cause and problem. Maintaining good oral hygiene and avoiding smoking are crucial. Seek medical attention if you're experiencing any of the above conditions.
Throat or Oropharynx
The oropharynx is the middle part of the throat (or pharynx) and is important to the act of swallowing. It also secretes saliva to keep the mouth and throat moist and aid the beginning of digestion.
Oropharyngeal cancer is a type of head and neck cancer in which malignant cells develop in the oropharynx. It may occur on the back one-third of your tongue, soft palate, tonsils, and side and back of the walls of the throat.
The causes of oropharyngeal cancer include smoking, drinking alcohol, and being infected with human papillomavirus (HPV). You may notice symptoms such as persistent sore throat, pain or difficulty swallowing, trouble opening the mouth fully or moving the tongue, and others. The four standard oropharyngeal cancer treatments are head and neck surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy.
Voice Box or Larynx
The larynx (voice box) is a hollow tube that connects the throat to the rest of the respiratory system. It contains the vocal cords that produce sounds. It also helps you swallow safely, preventing the passage of food and other unwanted particles into the lower respiratory tracts.
Problems associated with the larynx are laryngitis, muscle tension dysphonia, neurological voice disorders, nodules or cysts on the vocal cords, precancerous or cancerous lesions, vocal cord paralysis, and leukoplakia. Common factors that put you at risk of larynx disorders are older age, alcohol use, allergies, gastroesophageal reflux disease, upper respiratory infections, among others.
The symptoms of voice box disorders vary, and include hoarseness, painful throat, constant urge to clear the throat and breathing difficulties. Depending on the condition, the treatment for larynx disorders range from voice rest and speech therapy to surgery.
The hypopharynx forms the bottom part of the throat (pharynx) and the upper part of both the upper respiratory tract and the gastrointestinal tract. Hypopharyngeal cancer develops at the hypopharynx, a rare type of head and neck cancer. Smoking and alcohol are common causes of several head and neck cancers, including hypopharyngeal cancer.
Symptoms include changes to the voice, lump along the neck, sore throat, swallowing problems, and unexplained pain or ringing inside the ears.
The treatment options for hypopharyngeal cancer can vary. It may include head and neck surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy. Make sure to visit a head and neck clinic if you experience any of the above symptoms that do not seem to resolve.
Nose & Paranasal Sinuses
The nose and paranasal sinuses are both parts of the upper respiratory tract. The nose allows for (filtered and moistened) air to enter the body; while paranasal sinuses are air-filled extensions around the nasal cavity that helps reduce the weight of the skull, humidifies air, and influences voice quality.
Chronic sinusitis is a common condition that affects the way mucus normally drains; resulting in symptoms such as green or yellow nasal discharge, postnasal drip, facial pain, runny nose, sore throat, cough, headaches, bad breath, and more.
In many cases, home remedies and over-the-counter medications can relieve sinusitis symptoms. If symptoms persist, the doctor may prescribe medications. If no other treatments have worked, and there are structural issues, surgical treatment may be necessary.