What is the Thyroid Gland?

Iodine is important for healthy thyroid functioning.
The thyroid gland is located in the neck, just below the Adam's apple.
The thyroid gland is prone to several disorders.
Thyroid functioning affects the body's metabolism.
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  • Written By: T Thompson
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Images By: Ksena32, Tony Alter, Reineg, Lom123
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2014
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The thyroid gland is a large gland located in the front part of the neck, just below the Adam's apple. It is butterfly-shaped, with "wings" that are the left and right thyroid lobes, which wrap around the trachea. The function of this organ is to produce thyroid hormone, which is responsible for regulating metabolism and organ function.

This gland functions in cooperation with the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus sends a signal to the pituitary gland through a hormone called thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH), and the pituitary gland then releases thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to the thyroid gland. The thyroid then releases T4 and T3 hormones, which enter the bloodstream and affect the metabolism of the heart, liver, muscle and other organs. The pituitary gland regulates the level of thyroid hormone in the blood and increases or decreases the amount of TSH released.

The thyroid gland is prone to several disorders:

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid fails to produce enough hormones. This disorder can often go unnoticed, as its symptoms are often indicative of other illnesses. Once detected, however, it is easily treated with thyroid replacement hormones.

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the gland produces too much hormone, which often calls for the use of radioactive iodine, anti-thyroid drugs, or surgery to slow it down or stop it completely.

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Goiters are an enlargement of the thyroid gland. These may be removed if they compress the trachea or esophagus, making it hard to breathe or swallow.

Thyroid cancer is a fairly common type of cancer, but patients have a high rate of long-term survival. It can be easily isolated and treated to prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body.

Thyroid Nodules are usually benign, but can indicate thyroid cancer. Treatment sometimes involves a needle biopsy or surgical removal.

Thyroiditis is an inflammatory condition within the gland that often brings about pain and fever and has a wide variety of causes. This condition is easily treatable, and the symptoms usually go away on their own.

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Discuss this Article

JackWhack
Post 10

@orangey03 – This happened to my cousin. She wasn't overweight at all before the surgery, but afterward, she expanded like a balloon!

Her doctor told her to stop eating things like white bread and cake and start eating whole grains instead. So, she switched to whole grain breads, pastas, and cereals. She also started eating spinach, beans, and other veggies with high nutrient content and fiber.

He also told her to walk for exercise every day. Since she has taken his advice, she has lost a good portion of the weight that she put on after the surgery. Maybe this could help you, too.

orangey03
Post 9

I had to have part of my thyroid gland removed a few years ago, and I've been having major issues with weight gain. I actually eat less than I used to, yet I have put on fifty pounds!

I don't understand it. Sometimes, I only eat half a burger and a salad for lunch and about the same amount of food at dinner, but I still gain weight.

I know that this is related to my thyroid gland, but I don't know what I can do about it. I'm already on medication because of the surgery.

feasting
Post 8

@Perdido – It is possible to have borderline hypothyroidism. I know for a fact that I suffer from this, but because my levels fall within the normal range, my doctor cannot treat me for it.

I have all the underactive thyroid gland symptoms, so it is frustrating that there is nothing I can really do about this. Like you, I wear a sweater everywhere, and I also take naps and try to eat healthy foods to combat the fatigue.

Perdido
Post 7

@comfyshoes – I went through a period where I was cold all the time. I kept turning the air off at work, and everyone else would turn it back on. I had to wear a warm sweater even in the summer!

I also felt tired and weak all the time. Because of all these symptoms, my doctor did a thyroid gland hormone level test.

Much to my disbelief, it came back normal. I wonder if it is possible for a person to have borderline hypothyroidism?

turquoise
Post 6

Why does goiter happen?

My sister had an ultrasound recently after the doctor noticed some inflammation in her throat during the physical exam. It turns out it was goiter, the ultrasound showed an enlarged thyroid gland. My sister has to be on medications now. I'm worried about her.

stoneMason
Post 5
@simrin-- Well, do you know what the cause of your hypothyroidism is? There are several underlying conditions that could be causing it like iodine deficiency, infection or Hashimato's disease. So it really depends.

I don't think stress causes thyroid gland to dysfunction. But stress has been shown to weaken our immune system by suppressing hormones that keep our immune system strong.

So if you were really stressed and this weakened your immunity, your body might have not been able to fight off an infection that damaged your thyroid.

SteamLouis
Post 4

@leilani-- Really?

Can stress cause our thyroid to dysfunction?

I went through a really stressful several years recently and now have been diagnosed with hypothyroid. I can't believe that stress could have affected my endocrine system like this. It's so scary.

comfyshoes
Post 3

An under active thyroid gland creates a series of symptoms that worsen if left untreated.

Usually people with underactive thyroid glands have difficulty losing weight and steadily gain weight although their food intake is moderate.

They also suffer from coarse skin and begins to show signs of hair loss.

A person with a low thyroid gland is also sensitive to cold and is usually cold when everyone else is comfortable. This condition can also lead to constipation, irritability and depression.

It can be treated with hormone therapy to balance the hormonal levels and an enhanced diet of healthy foods.

People undergoing thyroid gland treatment for an underactive thyroid gland also should eat foods that are considered low glycemic foods.

Glycemic foods tend to turn the food into sugar in the blood stream and sugar significantly lowers the metabolism which is why these types of food like rice, pasta, and processed or sugary foods should be limited.

Also, exercise should be done daily in order to raise the overall metabolic rate. Daily exercise also reduces other symptoms of a low thyroid problem significantly.

leilani
Post 1

Constant stress has negative effect on the workings of thyroid gland. Taking time to relax, and learn how to manage stress, is very important.

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