Located under your Adam’s apple area of your neck is your thyroid gland. Your thyroid gland weighs approximately one ounce and is in the shape of a butterfly.
The purpose of your thyroid gland is to produce thyroid hormones. Your thyroid gland is controlled by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), ʺdisorders associated with altered thyroid hormone secretion are common and affect about five percent of women and .5 percent of men.ʺ
The American Medical Women’s Association states, ʺmore than 13 million thyroid disorders are undiagnosed in the U.S. ʺ
Your thyroid produces two hormones know as thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The Endocrineweb.com states,ʺThe normal thyroid gland produces about 80 percent T4 and about 20 percent T3, however, T3 possesses about four times the hormone strength as T4.ʺ
Thyroxine is an iodine secreting hormone which regulates your metabolism. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, ʺT4 and T3 hormones stimulate every tissue in the body to produce proteins and increase the amount of oxygen used by cells.ʺ
There are several diseases which are attributed to the thyroid gland. Those diseases include: thyroiditis, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Grave’s disease, goiter, thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer. Two of the most common disorders are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
If your thyroid produces too much thyroxine, you may have hyperthyroidism. And if your body under produces thyroxine, you may have hypothyroidism.
Sometimes hypothyroidism is misdiagnosed because symptoms can mimic other illnesses. Hypothyroidism tends to increase with age and women older than 60 are at high risk.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:
• Lack of energy
• Weight gain
• Hair loss
• Dry skin
• Dry coarse hair
• Muscle cramps
• Decreased concentration
• Aches and pains
• Swelling of the legs
• Increased sensitivity to cold
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include:
• Increased appetite
• Increased perspiration
• Weight loss
• Difficulty sleeping
• Rapid heartbeat, irregular heartbeat or pounding of the heart
• Muscle weakness
• Nervousness, anxiety or irritability
• Tremors (trembling of the hands and fingers)
• An enlarged thyroid gland (called a goiter), appearing as a swelling at the base of the neck
• Changes in menstrual patterns, usually lighter flow or less frequent periods in women
• Changes in bowel patterns
• Increased sensitivity to heat
See your doctor if you have one or more of the above symptoms. If your doctor feels you may have a thyroid disorder, they may order a blood test.
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Reviewed September 29, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith