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Your Thyroid Gland is More Important Than You Might Think

The endocrine system is made up of glands throughout the body that regulate the function, growth and development of virtually every cell, tissue and organ in the body by secreting chemicals called hormones directly into the bloodstream.

Thyroid dysfunction is when the thyroid gland, a small, butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck, produces too much thyroid hormone. This is when you body’s endocrine system speed up, which is referred to as hyperthyroidism. When there is too little thyroid hormone being produced it is called hypothyroidism—this is when the body’s system slows down. If your thyroid gland isn’t working properly, neither will you.

How Your Thyroid Gland Works Imagine that your thyroid is a car engine. The thyroid is what sets the pace that your body operates. As an example, an engine produces the required amount of energy for a car to move at a certain rate of speed. The thyroid gland produces enough thyroid hormone to prompt your cells to function at a certain rate. Just as a car needs fuel, your thyroid needs “fuel” to make thyroid hormone. The “fuel” the thyroid gland needs is iodine. The iodine comes from your diet and is found in: iodized table salt, seafood, bread and milk. The way the iodine is received in the body; your thyroid extracts this necessary ingredient from your bloodstream. The two kinds of thyroid hormones made are Thyroxine, also known as T4, and Triiodothyronine or T3. The T4 comes from containing four iodine atom; and T3, which contains three iodine atoms.

The car engine produces energy, but you control how fast by pressing the accelerator. The thyroid gland operates the same way. It gets “acceleration” from the pituitary gland, located at the base of your brain. The pituitary gland, no larger than a pea, also is known as the “master gland.” This gland controls the thyroid functions and all of the other glands to make up the endocrine system.

What is a Thyroid Nodule The thyroid gland is located in the lower front of the neck, below the Adam’s apple and above the collarbone. A thyroid nodule is a lump in or on the thyroid gland.

Thyroid nodules are a common occurrence in about 6.4 percent of women and 1.5 percent in men. The nodule is less likely to occur in a younger patient and will increase in frequency with age.

At any time you find a lump in the thyroid tissue, you need to have the lump tested for malignancy (cancer). Most nodules are benign, meaning non cancerous. Nodules can occur by a simple overgrowth or “normal” thyroid tissue, fluid-filled cysts, inflammation (Thyroiditis) or a tumor.

Most patients will not have symptoms in connection with a thyroid nodule. Most nodules are found by a routine physical exam or an imaging study (CT or MRI) of the neck. Some patients have noticed a vague pressure sensation or discomfort when swallowing.

What is Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, or under activity of the thyroid gland, occurs when the thyroid gland produces less than the normal amount of thyroid hormones. This results in the slow down of many different bodily functions. In its earliest stage, hypothyroidism may cause few symptoms, since the body has the ability to partially compensate for a failing thyroid gland by increasing the stimulation to it. Some hypothyroidism symptoms include the following.

  • Pervasive fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty with learning
  • Dry, brittle hair and nails
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Puffy face
  • Constipation
  • Sore muscles
  • Weight gain and fluid retention
  • Heavy and/or irregular menstrual flow
  • Increased frequency of miscarriages
  • Increased sensitivity to many medications
What is Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism develops when the body is exposed to excessive amounts of thyroid hormone. This disorder occurs in almost one percent of all Americans and affects women five to 10 times more often than men.

In its mildest form, hyperthyroidism may not cause recognizable symptoms. More often, however, the symptoms are discomforting, disabling or even life-threatening. When hyperthyroidism develops, a goiter (enlargement of the thyroid) usually is present and may be associated with some or many of the following symptoms.

  • Fast heart rate, often more than 100 beats per minute
  • Nervousness, anxiety or an irritable and quarrelsome feeling
  • Trembling hands
  • Weight loss, despite eating the same amount or even more than usual
  • Intolerance of warm temperatures and increased likelihood to perspire
  • Loss of scalp hair
  • Rapid growth of fingernails and tendency of fingernails to separate from the nail bed
  • Muscle weakness, especially of the upper arms and thighs
  • Loose and frequent bowel movements
  • Thin and delicate skin
  • Change in menstrual pattern
  • Increased likelihood for miscarriage
  • Prominent “stare” of the eyes
  • Protrusion of the eyes, with or without double vision (in patients with Graves’ disease)
  • Irregular heart rhythm, especially in patients older than 60 years of age
  • Accelerated loss of calcium from bones, which increases the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
What is Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, also called autoimmune or chronic lymphocytic Thyroiditis, is the most common thyroid disease in the United States. It is an inherited condition that affects approximately 14 million Americans and is about seven times more common in women than in men.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is characterized by the production of auto antibodies and immune cells by the body’s immune system, which can damage thyroid cells and compromise their ability to make thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism occurs if the amount of thyroid hormone that can be produced is not enough for the body’s needs. The thyroid gland also may enlarge in some patients, forming a goiter. Although many of the symptoms associated with thyroid hormone deficiency occur commonly in patients without thyroid disease, patients with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis who develop hypothyroidism are more likely to experience the following.

  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty with learning
  • Dry, brittle hair and nails
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Puffy face
  • Constipation
  • Sore muscles
  • Weight gain
  • Heavy menstrual flow
  • Increased frequency of miscarriages
  • Increased sensitivity to many medications

 

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, please consult your doctor to begin further testing. To request an appointment, call 1.877.UT.CARES (1.877.882.2737).


Resources
www.thyroidawareness.com