The Thyroid Gland or simply the Thyroid is an endocrine gland in the throat and consists of two connected lobes. It is found at the front of the neck. The thyroid gland secretes thyroid hormones, which influence the metabolic rate, protein synthesis and have a wide range of other effects including on development. The thyroid hormones T3 and T4 are synthesized from iodine and tyrosine. The thyroid also produces calcitonin, which plays a role in calcium homeostasis.
Hormonal output from the thyroid is regulated by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) secreted from the anterior pituitary, which itself is regulated by thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) produced by the hypothalamus.
The thyroid may be affected by several diseases. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the gland produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormones, the most common cause being Graves’ disease—an autoimmune disorder. In contrast, hypothyroidism is a state of insufficient thyroid hormone production. Worldwide, the most common cause is iodine deficiency. Thyroid hormones are important for development, and hypothyroidism secondary to iodine deficiency remains the leading cause of preventable intellectual disability. In iodine-sufficient regions, the most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis—also an autoimmune disease. In addition, the thyroid gland may also develop several types of nodules and cancer.
About Thyroid Gland:
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located in the base of your neck. It releases hormones that control metabolism—the way your body uses energy. The thyroid‘s hormones regulate vital body functions, including:
- Heart rate
- Central and peripheral nervous systems
- Body weight
- Muscle strength
- Menstrual cycles
- Body temperature
- Cholesterol levels
The thyroid gland is about 2-inches long and lies in front of your throat below the prominence of thyroid cartilage sometimes called the Adam’s apple. The thyroid has two sides called lobes that lie on either side of your windpipe, and is usually connected by a strip of thyroid tissue known as an isthmus. Some people do not have an isthmus, and instead have two separate thyroid lobes.
How the Thyroid Gland Works
The thyroid is part of the endocrine system, which is made up of glands that produce, store, and release hormones into the bloodstream so the hormones can reach the body’s cells. The thyroid gland uses iodine from the foods you eat to make two main hormones:
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
- Thyroxine (T4)
It is important that T3 and T4 levels are neither too high nor too low. Two glands in the brain—the hypothalamus and the pituitary communicate to maintain T3 and T4 balance.
The hypothalamus produces TSH Releasing Hormone (TRH) that signals the pituitary to tell the thyroid gland to produce more or less of T3 and T4 by either increasing or decreasing the release of a hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
- When T3 and T4 levels are low in the blood, the pituitary gland releases more TSH to tell the thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormones.
- If T3 and T4 levels are high, the pituitary gland releases less TSH to the thyroid gland to slow production of these hormones.
Why You Need a Thyroid Gland
T3 and T4 travel in your bloodstream to reach almost every cell in the body. The hormones regulate the speed with which the cells/metabolism work. For example, T3 and T4 regulate your heart rate and how fast your intestines process food. So if T3 and T4 levels are low, your heart rate may be slower than normal, and you may have constipation/weight gain. If T3 and T4 levels are high, you may have a rapid heart rate and diarrhea/weight loss.
Listed below are other symptoms of too much T3 and T4 in your body (hyperthyroidism):
- Irritability or moodiness
- Nervousness, hyperactivity
- Sweating or sensitivity to high temperatures
- Hand trembling (shaking)
- Hair loss
- Missed or light menstrual periods
The following is other symptoms of too little T3 and T4 in your body (hypothyroidism):
- Trouble sleeping
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Dry skin and hair
- Sensitivity to cold temperature
- Frequent, heavy periods
- Joint and muscle pain
Treatment for Hyperthyroidism:
The treatment of Hyperthyroidism depends on your age and physical state, as well as the cause and the severity of your condition. The treatment options include:
Anti-Thyroid Medicine – Is the first-line treatment, it blocks the secretion of thyroid hormones, and therefore slowly reduce symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
Hormone Replacement Therapy – This aims at regulating the thyroid hormone levels by using a synthetic thyroid hormone pill
Radioactive Iodine Treatment – Is used if you did not respond to anti-thyroid medications. Radioactive iodine is administered orally and can reduce the thyroid activity significantly, and even permanently
Surgical Removal – Of your thyroid gland is a last-resort option. You may need to take life-long medication to maintain normal thyroid hormone levels