Even though it only weighs an ounce, your thyroid is a powerful little gland. It sits in the front portion of your lower neck and releases hormones like triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) into your bloodstream. These hormones then travel to your cells to give them energy, and the energy is used to support several of your body’s regular functions.
But there’s a lot more to the thyroid that everyone should know for healthy living. Use these three facts to learn about what your thyroid does, the diseases and symptoms it could cause you, and how to treat it if it is affecting your health.
1. It regulates your metabolism
One body process that everyone seems to be acutely aware of these days is the metabolism. That’s because it’s largely connected to regulating a person’s weight. Your metabolism consists of physical and chemical processes that go on inside your body (breathing, digesting food, contracting muscles, etc.) that use or convert energy. Energy that’s used instead of being stored can contribute to losing or maintaining your weight.
As part of the endocrine system, your thyroid controls your metabolism. The normal amounts of T3 and T4 that it secretes keep metabolism functions moving at an effective pace and operating properly. Without your thyroid, these hormones wouldn’t exist to direct the activity of your cells, which would affect metabolic functions as well as nearly every one of your body’s organs.
In fact, your thyroid contributes to more than just your metabolism; it also influences: brain development, heart functions, breathing, muscle strength, skin quality, cholesterol levels, menstrual cycles in women and body temperature.
Making sure your thyroid is at its top shape could mean maintaining not only your metabolism but your overall well-being, too.
2. It’s a common target for dysfunction and disease
Such an important gland doesn’t come without its problems. Around 30 million to 50 million Americans have thyroid disease. While several thyroid diseases exist, perhaps the most well-known is hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid stops producing the amount of hormone needed for your body to function correctly. Different body functions start to slow down and you may begin to gain unexplainable weight or feel especially tired. A few other symptoms to watch out for include: thinning, dry hair; an intolerance to the cold, slower heart rate, depression, decreased sweating, heavy or irregular periods, and a puffy-looking face
But what causes hypothyroidism? Hashimoto’s Disease, an auto-immune disorder, can attack thyroid cells and lead to hypothyroidism, as can certain medications like amiodarone, interferon alpha, lithium and interleukin-2.
In other cases, hypothyroidism might just be something you were born with. It can be caused by thyroid surgery or radiation treatments. Thyroid inflammation is another credited source of hypothyroidism, developing from an infection or after giving birth.
Whatever the reason, hypothyroidism is a condition that affects nearly 15 million estimated people in the U.S. If you believe you are exhibiting symptoms, a thyroid screening from a doctor or other trusted health source, like Life Line Screening can help make a diagnosis.
3. It can be treated if irregular
The most important thyroid takeaway point is that you can be treated if you do develop hypothyroidism.
Synthetic thyroxine imitates the T4 that your thyroid makes and can be used to treat hypothyroidism. Experts cite this as a successful drug in treating the condition when the correct dosage is taken (as determined by your age, weight, level of hypothyroidism and other factors).
If prescribed the treatment, you will go through TSH levels testing about two months after you start taking the hormone. Any adjustments to your dosage will be made by your doctor at this time, and subsequent tests will occur until the dose is just right. As a result, your hypothyroidism will be controlled and the negative symptoms will decrease.
If you have questions or concerns about your thyroid, hypothyroidism or its treatment, schedule an appointment with your doctor or visit a local health care facility to get more information.
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