Thyroid Gland

The thyroid gland undoubtedly stands to be one of the most important glands of the human endocrine system. It secretes hormones that regulate metabolism and other important functions of the body and hence initiates growth and development of the same.

The thyroid gland produces two important hormones, namely, the thyroxine (T4) and the triiodothyronine (T3). Of these two hormones, the T3 hormone is considered to be more crucial in maintaining the metabolism and other body functions. When released in the systems a large part of the T4 hormone is converted into the T3 hormone, which is a normal function of the system.

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Thyroid Gland Works

The thyroid gland works by just producing thyroid hormones, there is a lot happening inside the body to make this process happen. The thyroid gland is regulated by the pituitary gland, another important gland located in the brain. The pituitary gland, in turn, is regulated by the hypothalamus which is the part of the human brain. The hypothalamus secretes a hormone called the thyrotrop in releasing hormone (TRH), which in turn sends a signal to the pituitary gland to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). The TSH again signals the thyroid to release the thyroid hormones.

Types and Causes of Thyroid Diseases

The thyroid hormones play an important part in metabolism and growth it is necessary that an optimal amount of the hormones circulate within the human system for proper functioning and nourishment. But if there is a slight increase or decrease in the levels of the hormones in the system it could lead to a medical condition that might need attention.

If there is an excess amount of thyroid hormone produced it could lead to a condition called ad hyperthyroidism and a deficit of these hormones can give rise to a condition called as hypothyroidism.

The thyroid gland also produces another hormone called the calcitonin. This hormone regulates calcium by lowering calcium levels in the blood. Excess of calcium could again give rise to another condition called hypercalcemia.

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Hypothyroidism

This condition is denoted by a dip in the thyroid hormones in the blood. It happens if one has an underactive thyroid or the glands that control the thyroid malfunctions, though there are other causes also that can lead to this condition.

Some of the causes that could lead to a low level of thyroid hormone in the system and give rise to hypothyroidism are:

  • Hashimoto’s disease:An auto immune disease that attacks the tissues of the thyroid gland.
  • Thyroiditis: Inflammation of the thyroid gland that can result in less production of the hormone.
  • Radioactive treatment for hyperthyroidism: If one is treated for hyperthyroidism with radioactive therapy, the treatment while correcting the condition can lead to an unpleasant outcome – underactive thyroid.
  • Malfunctioning of the other important glands in the system: At times one might have a perfect healthy thyroid but can still suffer from the problem of hypothyroidism, if the glands that regulate the function of thyroid go haywire.
  • Medications taken to treat hyperthyroidism: Sometimes medications that are prescribed to control hyperthyroidism can lead to hypothyroidism making the thyroid gland function sub-optimally.
  • Iodine deficiency: A diet low in iodine has been seen to be a major cause of hypothyroidism in adults. It is noticed that areas that have low sources of iodine have more number of people suffering from this condition

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Hyperthyroidism

In this condition there is an overdrive of the thyroid hormone in the blood due to an overactive thyroid gland that secretes the hormones in abundance. Some of the common causes that lead to hyperthyroidism are:

  • Graves disease:This is the most common reason that causes hyperthyroidism in adults.
  • Nodules in the gland:A single lump or multiple lumps growing on the thyroid can mimic its function and secrete more hormones than necessary.
  • Excessive TSH secretion:Sometimes a medical condition like a tumor in the pituitary gland can initiate excess secretion of TSH that could lead to hyper-secretion of the thyroid hormone leading to the condition.
  • Medications taken to treat hypothyroidism:Excessive intake of medications that initiates thyroid to produce the hormones can lead to this condition.
  • Thyroiditis:If the inflammation of the thyroid gland leads to abnormal amounts of hormones into the system, it can lead to hyperthyroidism.

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Thyroid enlargement

In this condition thyroid disease occurs due to the structural changes in the gland like an enlargement or nodules appearing on the gland. There can be benign cysts developed or cancerous ones in the form of nodules. Enlargement of the thyroid gland is often termed as goiter. Goiter can at times be unnoticeable and at other times, it can lead to abnormal enlargement that might need surgical removal of the organ.

Symptoms of a thyroid malfunction

Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can have adverse effects on a person’s health. The symptoms and signs of the condition can vary from person to person depending on the severity of the condition.

Some of the common symptoms of hypothyroidism are:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Forgetfulness and confusion in thought process
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Repeated bouts of constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Bloating or fluid retention in the body
  • Stiffness in joints and muscles along with aches and pains
  • Menorrhagia, excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding
  • Depression

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Some of the common symptoms of hyperthyroidism are:

  • Sweating profusely
  • Intolerance to heat
  • Increased bowel movements
  • Slight tremor in the limbs
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Concentration problem
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • It can lead to irregular heart rhythms and even heart failure in the elderly.
  • Untreated hyperthyroidism may result in the condition called thyroid storm, where a person can suffer from high blood pressure, fever leading to a heart failure.
  • In Graves’ disease, there may be eye changes and skin changes in addition to the other symptoms.

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