Do You Know What Thyroid Disease Is?

An estimated 20 million people in the United States have thyroid disease, according to the American Thyroid Association. January is Thyroid Awareness Month, and we talked to Larissa Lim, MD of SIMEDHealth Primary Care, about the function of the thyroid and common diseases and treatments. 

1. What is the thyroid?

Dr. Lim says, "The thyroid gland is located on the bottom part of the front of the neck. It is composed of two lobes (left and right) and a middle region called the isthmus; some compare the shape to a butterfly." 

2. What is its function in the body?

"The gland secretes hormones influencing the growth and maturation of tissues, the functioning of all cells in the body, and our total energy expenditure," explains Dr. Lim. "These energy expenditures include raising or lowering body temperature, the rate of our heartbeat, and activation of the nervous system."

3. What can happen if it stops functioning correctly?

"When the thyroid gland does not synthesize enough hormone, hypothyroidism develops." Dr. Lim says, "In adults, symptoms include fatigue, lethargy, constipation, cold intolerance, muscle cramping and stiffness, carpal tunnel syndrome, weight gain, dry skin and hair, voice hoarseness, and excessive menstruation. Infants with hypothyroidism can develop jaundice, hoarse cry, constipation, drowsiness, and feeding problems." 

"On the other hand, problems can also ensue when it produces too many hormones. Hyperthyroidism is the overproduction of the active thyroid hormone thyroxine. Hyperthyroidism symptoms include unintentional weight loss, rapid heartbeat, irregular heartbeat, increased appetite, sweating, difficulty sleeping, increased sensitivity to heat, and anxiety."

4. What are some common thyroid diseases? How are they treated?

  • "Goiter is an enlargement of the gland," reports Dr. Lim. "The symptoms include swelling and tightness of the neck, difficulty breathing, coughing, or hoarseness of voice. Most of the time, people experience no symptoms, but if they do, they have several treatment options. They can take small doses of iodine, use radioactive iodine to shrink the thyroid, or have all or part of the gland surgically removed."
  • "Grave's disease is an effect of hyperthyroidism. Grave's disease is associated with increased metabolism. It causes the muscles and tissues behind the eyes to swell. When severe causes the eyes to bulge forward," Dr. Lim states, "There is no overall cure for hyperthyroidism, but the symptoms can be controlled. Conventional treatments include beta-blockers, radioactive iodine to eliminate all or part of the gland or complete removal." 
  • According to the National Cancer Institute, thyroid cancers are generally rare, affecting less than 4% of the population. Dr. Lim explains, "They usually present as nodules measuring more than 1 cm. Treatment is often surgery, sometimes followed by radioactive iodine."


For an appointment with Dr. Lim or another SIMEDHealth Primary Care physician, please click here!

Tips to Avoid The E.R. During the Holidays

Did you know emergency room visits increase during the holiday season? In some areas, there is a 10-15% increase around Christmas and New Year's Day. To prepare yourself for some possible accidents, Larissa Lim, MD of SIMEDHealth Primary Care, provided us with some tips on how to avoid the E.R.

  • Minimize exposure to sick people. If you cannot avoid exposure to ill family members, consider asking those who are coughing to wear a mask. Proper and regular handwashing will also reduce your chances of catching infections.
  • Get your flu shot in the fall each year to minimize the risks associated with Influenza. The flu lasts typically 5-7 days and causes lots of lost work and family time. It can also cause other infections like pneumonia and sometimes leads to death.
  • Don't forget to take all your prescribed medications as instructed. This can be a busy time, and with the holiday excitement, the routines things may get overlooked. Nothing is more important than your health. Set timers, leave yourself notes, whatever needs to be done to stay on track.
  • If you become ill, contact your healthcare provider for an evaluation. Many medical offices and urgent care centers are open around the holidays. Even if they are closed, there is usually a physician, nurse, or physician assistant on-call who can assist your medical decision making by telephone. 
  • Don't drink and drive. Drug and alcohol-related emergency room visits to jump to 10.1% on Christmas and skyrocket to 17.1% on New Year's Eve. Make a plan before going to parties to have a friend or family member that is the designated driver or to take a taxi, Lyft, or Uber. 
  • Avoid the emergency room unless you are dealing with severe life-threatening emergencies like chest pain, trouble breathing, head injuries, and signs of a stroke. Crowded emergency rooms can be dangerous, so consider going to an urgent care center first.


Click here to schedule an appointment with Dr. Lim or one of our other Primary Care physicians. 

Why Your Phone May Be The Reason You Can't Sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, at least 95 percent of people use some kind of electronic device — TV, a computer, a phone or a tablet — within an hour of bedtime. 

Watching Netflix, checking emails or scrolling through social media before bed might seem harmless, and at times, necessary, however, it's the complete opposite. We spoke with Dr. Larissa Lim of SIMEDHealth’s Sleep Center to ask her a few questions about screen time and the importance of sleep.

Why is sleep so important?

“Sleep is what allows our bodies to rest and recuperate from the day. When we sleep we dream and process all the information we’ve received throughout the day,” she said.

Not getting enough sleep can mean decreased attention, slower processing speeds, general fatigue, and weight gain.

“People who are chronically sleep deprived are also more prone to depression and increased pain. If you get only 5 hours of sleep, you’ll feel it the next day,” Dr. Lim said.

Those of us who spend more time on screens before bed are more prone to these symptoms.

Why are screens bad for sleep?

The Pineal gland makes melatonin, which is the main hormone that sets our circadian clock (our internal sleep timer). Blue light from screens is meant to mimic the sun. This suppresses melatonin production and tells our brains that it’s daytime, keeping us awake longer.


How to detox from screen time:

Dr. Lim says that breaking the habit of constantly using our phones is a hard but important habit to break.

“A lot of us are mindlessly picking up our phones all the time, constantly checking texts, emails, or Facebook. We need to limit ourselves,” she said.

Here are a few techniques you can use to decrease your screen time:

1. On the iPhone’s latest operating system update, there’s a feature called “Screen Time.” This allows you to see exactly how much time you spend on your phone and on specific apps. You can also set screen time limits and limit notifications on certain apps. 

2. If you don’t have an iPhone, feel free to check out these free apps to monitor and limit your screen usage:

  •  BreakFree App
  •  Unglue
  •  AppDetox
  • Moment
  •  bSocial

3. Dr. Lim says using “Night Mode” on your cell phone before bed, might decrease the risk of exposure to blue light.

“If it’s not blue light, it may be useful in improving sleep,” she said.

4. Avoid “phubbing”, or using our phones in social situations. 

5. Dr. Lim’s top recommendation to limit screen time: Try turning off cellphone alerts during certain times of your day and give yourself a daily allowance of screen time.

If you find that it is not screen time that is keeping you from getting enough sleep, you may need to assess your sleep hygiene.

When should you see a doctor about sleep?

If you experience difficulty with falling or staying asleep for more than 3-6 months, or if lack of good sleep is beginning to affect your daily life, you should schedule an appointment with your provider, said Dr. Lim.

Sometimes the cause of your sleep concerns may be an underlying condition such as sleep apnea or seizures. This is why SIMEDHealth’s Sleep Center treats sleep disorders and evaluates multiple conditions. Dr. Lim goes on to express just how imperative it is that we limit phone use, for the sake of our sleep.

“We as a country are becoming addicted to smartphones. Each person needs to assess their phone use and minimize use before sleep.” 

Sleep & Heart Health with Dr. Larissa Lim