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What does the thyroid do?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck below the Adam’s apple. It is made up of two lobes, one on each side, connected by a narrow strip called the isthmus. When the gland is healthy and functioning normal, you can’t see or feel it.

The thyroid is a hardworking gland that makes the thyroid hormones organs in the body need to function properly, regulate metabolism and maintain body temperature.

The two primary hormones made by the thyroid are T3 and T4. To produce them, the thyroid needs iodine. Since the body doesn’t make iodine, it has to be consumed. Iodine comes from certain foods like seafood, some dairy products or salt that has iodine added.

Although the thyroid produces the hormones, it’s the pituitary gland in the brain that controls it. The pituitary regulates thyroid hormone levels and releases a thyroid secreting hormone (TSH) that tells the thyroid how muchthyroid hormone(s) the body needs.

Thyroid disorders& Treatment

There are a number of conditions that can influence the production of thyroid hormones. Production of too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism) can lead to complications.

Hypothyroidismis a result of problems with the thyroid gland itself or from disorders of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus. Symptoms related to low thyroid hormone levels include fatigue, mild weight gain, cold intolerance, dry skin and hair, heavy or irregular menstrual periods and enlarged thyroid (goiter). Treatment is thyroid hormone replacement therapy

Hyperthyroidism – an overly active thyroid gland is less common than an underactive thyroid but when it occurs, possible symptoms are tremor, rapid heart rate, increased bowel activity, sweating, nervousness and unexplained weight loss.Treatment is aimed at destroying the thyroid gland and initiating thyroid hormone replacement medication

Some other thyroid disorders include the following:

  • Hashimoto’s disease – an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland and decreases production of thyroid hormones. There is no cure for Hashimoto’s, but thyroid hormone replacement medication can control the disease
  • Thyroiditis – other types of thyroid inflammation can be caused by an attack of antibodies or infection
  • Grave’s disease – an autoimmune disorder and the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, Grave’s disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid. This hereditary condition is more common in women and causes bulging eyes, anxiety, hand tremors and enlarged thyroid. Treatment includes medication to control rapid heart rate and other symptoms, anti-thyroid medication to reduce the production of thyroid hormones, radioactive iodine to destroy part (or all) of the thyroid or surgery to remove the thyroid gland
  • Thyroid nodules – are growths that occur in the thyroid gland. They are usually benign and typically produce no symptoms. When symptoms are present, they may mimic those of either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism
  • Goiter – an enlargement of the thyroid gland that can be associated with hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Sometimes goiter even occurs with normal thyroid function. The only treatment needed is that of any underlying conditions
  • Thyroid cancer –more common in women, thyroid cancer in the U.S. is still relatively rare. Most types of thyroid cancer can be successfully treated with surgery followed by radioactive iodine to destroy any remaining thyroid tissue and lifelong thyroid hormone replacement. Other treatment options include: external radiation therapy, chemotherapy, alcohol ablation and targeted drug therapy

Thyroid disease can occur in all ages and genders although it is most common in women. Disorders of the thyroid gland require lifelong treatment.


Otolaryngology (Ent)

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