Your thyroid gland is a small organ located in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that play numerous roles, including controlling your metabolism. If your thyroid makes too much or too little of these important hormones, it can negatively impact your entire body.
The thyroid controls your metabolism with two specific hormones: T4 and T3.
Metabolism is the process that transforms food into energy. This energy, then, is dispersed throughout your body to keep many of the body’s systems operating correctly. T4 (thyroxine with four iodide atoms) and T3 (triiodothyronine with three iodide atoms) hormones tell your body’s cells how much energy to use. When your thyroid is functioning as it should, it maintains the right amount of hormones to propel your metabolism to work at the right rate. As the hormones are utilized, it creates replacements.
This process is supervised by the pituitary gland, which is located in the center of the skull below your brain. It monitors and controls the amount of thyroid hormones in your bloodstream. If this gland senses low or high levels of hormones in your body, it adjusts the amounts with its own hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
So what is thyroid disease?
Thyroid disease refers to any issue that prevents your thyroid from making the right amount of hormones to keep your body functioning in a healthy way. There are two main forms of thyroid disease, which can be caused by a variety of conditions and may even be hereditary. They include hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, which can both be caused by other disorders that impact how the thyroid gland works.
If your thyroid gland makes too much hormone, your body burns energy too quickly, making you tired. You may feel your heart beat faster or notice that you lose weight without trying. You may feel nervous or anxious without understanding why.
Hyperthyroidism is caused by the following conditions.
- Graves’ disease: With this condition, the thyroid gland is overactive and produces too much hormone. It may also be caused by an enlarged thyroid gland.
- Nodules: There may be overactive nodules within the thyroid. A single nodule is called a toxic autonomously functioning thyroid nodule, and a gland with multiple nodules is called a toxic multi-nodular goiter.
- Thyroiditis: Here, the thyroid releases hormones that were stored there for as long as a few weeks or even months. For some individuals, this disorder is painful, while others don’t feel it at all.
- Excessive iodine: Iodine is the mineral used to make thyroid hormones. When too much is present in the body, the thyroid makes more than needed. Iodine is also found in some medications and cough syrups.
When you have too little thyroid, you feel tired. You may also gain weight and be unable to tolerate cold temperatures.
Hypothyroidism may be caused by:
- Thyroiditis: Thyroiditis refers to the swelling or inflammation of the thyroid gland. It may lower the amount of hormones your thyroid produces.
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: This painless disease is an autoimmune condition where the body’s cells attack the thyroid. It is inherited.
- Postpartum thyroiditis: This often-temporary condition occurs in five to nine percent of women after childbirth.
- Iodine deficiency: This issue affects several million people around the world.
- A non-functioning thyroid gland: In about one in 4,000 newborns, the thyroid gland doesn’t work correctly from birth. All babies are given a screening blood test in the hospital to ensure their thyroid is functioning correctly. If left untreated, the child may have both mental and physical issues.
Later this month, we’ll explore symptoms, risk factors, and diagnosis of as well as treatment options for thyroid disease. Stay tuned!