Know about your thyroid gland!
Thyroid Gland is one of the most important glands of human body and its importance has increased with time due to an elevation in thyroid related diseases like Hypothyroidism, Hyperthyroidism, Thyroiditis, Thyroid Cancer and other thyroid problems.
Human body is the most amazing machine ever created with zillions of glands and arteries performing various functions for the perfect functioning of the body. One of these amazing glands in the body is the thyroid gland.
What is Thyroid Gland?
This little H-shaped thyroid gland located in the throat region holds the responsibility to regulate metabolism in the body. The hormones from the gland are also responsible to regulate heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature.
The thyroid gland covers the trachea (wind pipe) of the human body from three sides. It has two lobes connected by a thin bridge-like film called isthmus. A normal-sized gland is generally not felt around the wind pipe.
Isthmus may not be present for some people and they might have two separate thyroid lobes on either sides of the trachea.
This gland is one of the most important glands of the endocrine system as it is responsible for maintaining metabolism of the body and non-functioning of it results in improper breakdown of proteins, carbohydrates and iodine inside the body.
There are two major imbalances related to thyroid gland, these imbalances are caused due to irregular secretion of the thyroid hormones.
The imbalances are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. These imbalances happen when the the gland is overactive or underactive.
Generally, people gain or lose weight when there is an imbalance in the thyroid gland. In young children, thyroid gland imbalance also results in mental disabilities, constipation/diarrhoea, and accumulation of protein in the body or swollen body parts.
Thyroid gland problems are generally temporary and can be treated with medication but in some cases, these problems need surgery also.
Thyroid gland is completely removed from the body and an artificial replacement is placed to regulate metabolism of the body of the patient. The imbalance may seldom lead to thyroid cancer also.
Read along to find out more about the functions, location problems and the treatments associated with the thyroid gland to be aware and healthy.
What will follow in the end is a series of answers to questions that frequently keep popping into your head about thyroid-related issues.
Thyroid Gland Functions
Being the most important gland of the endocrine system, the thyroid gland works in coordination with the pituitary gland to secrete hormones that help in regulating the quantity of proteins, carbohydrates and calcium inside the body.
Apart from this the thyroid gland also maintains the important functions of the human body like:
- Body Weight
- Body temperature
- Heart Rate
- Blood Pressure
- Cholesterol level
The hormones from the thyroid gland, known as T3 and T4, have the main function to regulate the speed of metabolism in your body.
They control the process of digestion in your body hence indirectly controlling your entire lifestyle. They get diffused in the cells of the body and regulate your blood pressure and heart beat rate for proper breakdown of food and minerals.
Imbalance in thyroid hormones or the improper secretion may result in lower heart rate and digestion-related issues.
Thyroid Gland Location
The thyroid gland is located below the Adam’s apple in one’s throat. The lobes of the thyroid gland are like the shape of the wings of a butterfly.
The isthmus may or may not be present. It is a small gland that doesn’t marks it’s presence and silently keeps working.
However, during several throat-related diseases, the gland gets disturbed and usually swells. Goiter is the most common issue related to this gland.
The throat completely swells when a person suffers from Goiter disease and the gland stops functioning properly.
As the gland works with the help of pituitary gland, its location around the trachea is perfect as this makes it easier for the pituitary gland to secrete thyroid stimulating hormones (TSH) for thyroid gland to release T3 and T4.
Next paragraph will help you understand this in a better way.
Thyroid Gland Hormones
As you are already aware that the thyroid gland secretes hormones to regulate the metabolism of the body, but how does it do that?
Well, the thyroid gland does that with the help of two other glands located in the brain-Hypothalamus and Pituitary Gland. Let’s understand it in a smooth way. Read along…
- The hypothalamus releases two hormones, Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) and Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
- As the name says, these two hormones are responsible for the release and stimulation of the hormones released by the thyroid gland.
- Those hormones are T3 and T4, let’s get a detailed view of them:
- T3, medically known as triiodothyronine.
- T4, medically known as thyroxin.
- Apart from these two, the thyroid gland also releases peptide hormone calcitonine, which regulates calcium content in the body.
- These hormones are secretes with the help of iodine intake.
- Lesser or higher release of these hormones results in thyroid gland hormonal imbalance and various thyroid gland problems.
Thyroid Gland Problems
Imbalance in the hormones of the thyroid gland may result in problems in the body. Majorly, it affects the metabolism of the body leading to accumulation of undigested food in the body.
The most common problems related to the thyroid gland are as follows:
- Hyperthyroidism: This is the condition when the hypothalamus loses control over the release of the thyroid gland hormones. The thyroid hormones become excess in the body.
- Hypothyroidism: It is the opposite of hyperthyroidism; the thyroid hormone secretion is very less or negligible.
- Goitre: This is the condition where the thyroid gland swells up due to irritation.
- Thyroid Cancer: This is a rare condition where the cells in the thyroid gland start turning dead and finally cause cancer in the throat of the patient. It is treated by surgery or complete removal of the thyroid gland.
Swollen Thyroid Glands
Thyroid glands tend to swell up due to many causes. This condition is known as goitre. This thyroid gland problem is generally harmless and can be treated by increasing the intake of iodine in the food.
Goitre is caused by iodine deficiency in the body. The thyroid gland gets disturbed and the lobes begin to swell up creating an ugly lump in the throat.
Thyroid Gland Cancer
Thyroid cancer is a rare disease that usually does not occur in many patients, it is a condition where the thyroid cells begin to collapse and become dead.
No proper cause of thyroid cancer has been medically found as yet, however, exposure to radiations is known to be the best possible cause of thyroid cancer.
Thyroid cancer may give you swelling in the lump, dizziness, lesser mental alertness, pain in the throat and ears. Difficulty in swallowing can also be one of the main symptoms of thyroid cancer.
Overactive Thyroid Gland
The over-active thyroid gland is another name for hyperthyroidism. When the gland is overactive, the hormones are produced in excess which results in various malfunctions in the body.
Overactive gland may result in frequent absurd weight loss, missed or lighter periods, irritation and anxiety. Acute diarrhoea may also follow leading to weakness and lethargy.
Grave’s disease is the most common autoimmune disease caused by an overactive thyroid gland. Hyperthyroidism can be either temporary or permanent; several goitres are a result of hyperthyroidism.
Irregular functioning of pituitary gland may also lead to hyperthyroidism.
Temporary hyperthyroidism can be treated by medication and maintaining a proper diet while permanent hyperthyroidism needs surgery if required.
Permanent hyperthyroidism is generally a harmless state where you are constantly suffering from anxiety, weight loss and diarrhoea. Keeping your diet in check may help you curb hyperthyroidism to a great extent.
Under-active Thyroid Gland
Thyroid being one of the most important glands of the endocrine system needs to secrete its hormones in a balanced way to help in the metabolism of the body. Underproduction of the thyroid hormones result in hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is a condition where the gland is under-active and does not produce enough T3 and T4 in the body. This condition results in rapid weight gain and constipation.
As the thyroid hormones are unable to breakdown the food completely, the proteins and carbohydrates get deposited in the body resulting in weight gain.
Hashimoto’s disease is the most common disease caused due to hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism may also occur if your thyroid gland has been removed or destroyed surgically.
Exposure to excess of iodide and lithium has also been listed as major causes of hypothyroidism. Young babies or infants are more prone to suffer from hypothyroidism.
Children suffering from hypothyroidism are obese, have a poor appetite and are lazy and lethargic.
Diagnosis of Thyroid Gland Problems
Thyroid gland problems are generally harmless and the symptoms are also subtle. However, pregnant women, infants and young children are tested by endocrinologists for the levels of thyroid gland hormones in their bodies. Women and infants are the most vulnerable of the lot.
Several tests are done to diagnose the thyroid-related problems- hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Blood test determines whether the level of secretion of T3 and T4 hormones is balanced according to the BMI (Body Mass Index) of the person.
Now it’s time to address the questions related to thyroid gland problems. Take a look:
Q: What are the symptoms of thyroid disorder?
A: Look out for signs like a lump in the throat, rapid weight gain/loss, dizziness and anxiety. A person may also suffer from constipation/diarrhea if he/she has a thyroid disorder.
Q: How do you fix a thyroid disorder?
A: They can be generally fixed by maintaining a proper iodine intake in your diet. Daily exercising may also help curbing these disorders. A healthy diet ensures your thyroid hormones count in check.
Include a lot of vegetables in your diet and consult your family doctor on a regular basis.
Q: How do I know if I have a thyroid cancer?
A: If you feel your voice being hoarse and creation of a lump in your throat, consult your doctor for a biopsy that will confirm if you have thyroid cancer.
Thyroid cancer is a rare disease and is generally detected at an early stage. If you suffer from hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism keep your iodine intake in check and take thyroid tests regularly.
Q: How is thyroid cancer detected?
A: Constant hoariness in voice, iodine imbalance in the body leading to hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism can result in cancer.
If you experience sudden weight gain or weight loss with no affect of exercises then you should go for a thyroid cancer test. Simple thyroid tests are also available with pathologists check the count of your thyroid hormones.
Q: Is thyroid cancer curable?
A: In most of the cases, thyroid cancer is curable. It is a rare disease and mostly need chemotherapy or surgery. The thyroid gland is completely removed from the body if the cancer is diagnosed to be spreading to the other organs of the body.
Q: Why are women more prone to thyroid-related diseases?
A: Thyroid hormones are most affected during pregnancy that’s the reason women are more prone to thyroid-related issues.
Pregnancy triggers the thyroid hormones the most and women tend to suffer from hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism during or after pregnancy.
Q: What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?
A: Symptoms of hyperthyroidism are acute weight loss and dizziness. You may have bouts of weakness and mental lethargy. Irritation and anxiety are the most common symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Q: How do I know if I am suffering from hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism?
A: Look for signs and consult a doctor. Be alert if you suddenly start losing or gaining weight. Keep a check of a lump in your throat. Hyperthyroidism generally comes with subtle signs.
Hypothyroidism may come with a sudden increase in weight. Consult your doctor if you see any of these thyroid problems.
Q: What is the main function of the thyroid hormones?
A: They regulate the metabolism of the body and maintains the proper digestion. Other than this they also control blood pressure, heart rate and weight of the body.
The thyroid hormones are also responsible for breakdown of proteins and calcium in the body.
Q: Do other glands affect the working of the thyroid hormones?
A: Glands like pituitary and hypothalamus do affect the working of thyroid hormones. They are the hormones that trigger the production of T3 and T4 thyroid hormones.
They release TSH and TRH to produce and regulate thyroid hormones.
The best possible way to stay away from all the thyroid-related problems is to keep your iodine intake in check and maintain a healthy diet.
Include more amounts of veggies in your diet and look for signs related to thyroid imbalance. Stay fit and healthy.