Melissa Mao, MD

The thyroid is a small but powerful butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck. The thyroid gland influences almost all of the metabolic processes in your body through the hormones it produces. The hormones produced by the thyroid gland affect your breathing, heart rate, digestion and body temperature.

Nearly one in 20 Americans ages 12 and older has an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism. Underproduction of hormones causes many body functions to slow down. A smaller group of people – about one in 100 – has an overactive thyroid, called hyperthyroidism, where the thyroid overproduces hormones. Thyroid problems are more common in women and people over the age of 60 than anyone else. Having a family history of thyroid disorders also increases your risk of developing a thyroid problem.

Thyroid disorders are commonly misunderstood and can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to many other conditions. Symptoms of thyroid disorders can be vague and often develop slowly over time.

Your thyroid acts as a data center to keep many other processes of your body functioning properly. Supporting your thyroid is not only great for your endocrine system, but it’s also very beneficial for your overall well-being. Find a balance by eating nutritious foods and monitoring your symptoms carefully.

Self-check your thyroid gland by examining your neck in the area above your collarbone and below your voice box (larynx); tip your head back and swallow a drink of water. While you swallow, check for any static or moving bumps. Follow up with your doctor if you find any swelling or bulges.

Thyroid disorders are lifelong conditions. With careful management, people who have thyroid disorders can live healthy, normal lives.

Take the first step toward understanding your thyroid. Join Melissa Mao, MD, endocrine surgeon at Chestnut Hill Hospital, at our free lecture on Monday, April 29, at Center on the Hill, 8855 Germantown Ave. to learn about the symptoms and treatments for various thyroid and endocrine disorder. The lecture is free, but registration is required.

To register for the April 29 presentation, please call 215-753-2000 or visit for details.