The thyroid gland is located in the human neck. Its primary function is to produce triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) hormones. The hormones control body metabolism by regulating the speed at which cells work. When the thyroid produces hormones in low quantities, the hypothalamus stimulates the pituitary gland to produce thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) that increases hormone production in the thyroid. If the thyroid gland produces a lot of hormones, the hypothalamus stimulates the pituitary gland to halt production of TSH which in return slows down hormone secretion at the thyroid gland.
Common thyroid disorders
The thyroid is prone to different disorders that affect its functionality. These include the following:
This is a disorder where the thyroid gland produces excessive amounts of hormones. The symptoms of this disorder include anxiety, sweating, restlessness, rapid weight loss, tremours and increased heart rate. To treat hyperthyroidism, the doctor could give the patient medication that stops the secretion of hormones or may surgically remove a section of the thyroid.
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland secretes a low amount of hormones. Symptoms include low moods, dry hair, fatigue, muscle weakness, dry skin, weight gain and slow heart rate. Treatment involves administering medicine that helps restore the required amounts of hormones.
Goitre is when the thyroid gland swells. Other symptoms include swallowing, breathing and talking difficulties. The primary cause of goitre is iodine deficiency although hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism may cause it. Treatment comprises intake of iodine or treatment of the underlying hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. If the swelling is intense, surgery is initiated.
These are lumps that form in the thyroid gland. Most thyroid nodules do not exhibit any symptoms, but patients may experience a lump in the throat. If the nodules are not cancerous, they are left untreated. Cancerous nodules are surgically removed while radioactive iodine is used to treat those that use up a lot of hormones.
This occurs when cells in the thyroid gland mutate and multiply to form a tumour. Symptoms include swallowing difficulties, neck or throat pain, hoarse voice and a swollen thyroid gland. Treatment may be through the administration of radioactive iodine to destroy cancer cells or levothyroxine to inhibit the growth of thyroid cells. The doctor can also perform surgery to remove the affected part or the whole thyroid gland.
The thyroid gland is essential to normal body functions as it controls metabolism. Common thyroid disorders include hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, goitre, thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer.