The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located on the lower part of the neck in the front. Despite its small size, the thyroid has a massively important effect on almost every cell in the body.
Hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid disorder. The gland underperforms, and is not able to make appropriate levels of hormone. When the gland overproduces hormone, it is known as hyperthyroidism. While this is not common, it still has a big impact on someone’s health.
The autoimmune conditions related to the thyroid are known as Hashimoto’s disease, which is th most common condition, and Graves' disease.
According to the American Journal of Medicine, “Thyroid hormones modulate every component of the cardiovascular system necessary for normal cardiovascular development and function” (Grais and Sowers).
There are two main hormones produced by the thyroid — triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
T3 specifically has the biggest effect on the heart. It affects both the contraction and relaxation speed when the heart pumps to push oxygenated blood through the body. It helps maintain vascular tone in the smooth muscles of the arteries, which affects blood pressure and how the blood actually gets from one area to another.
In those people with chronic hypothyroidism, their risk for atherosclerosis and high cholesterol greatly increases.
Proper amounts of thyroid hormone also affect the way that digestion works. This includes stomach emptying, absorption of nutrients, and motility.
Hypothyroid patients commonly report more constipation or going days between bowel movements, whereas hyperthyroid patients report more diarrhea or loose stools.
Hypothyroid patients also have slower gastric emptying from the stomach into the intestines, which can increase symptoms of bloating, belching and heartburn.
In addition to cardiovascular and digestive symptoms, those who suffer from thyroid disease often experience hair, skin and nail problems as well.
Hypothyroid patients are more prone to dry, rough or scaling skin, dry hair, hair loss, hair thinning, brittle nails or nails that break easilyd.