What is Thyroid Disease?
The thyroid gland is an organ that controls many functions in your body. Diseases that affect the thyroid can affect your entire body and hurt your health over time. Thyroid disease is very common and is more likely to affect woman than men. Once diagnosed, treating the thyroid is usually very safe and effective.
The thyroid gland is a small butterfly shaped organ that sits above the collarbone at the bottom of the throat. The gland is controlled by the brain and stores thyroid hormone as T3 and T4 (thyroxine and triiodothyronine). These hormones have the ability to control your metabolism, body temperature, how tired you feel and how you sense cold and heat. They help you regulate your body and are necessary to live.
When the thyroid gland releases too little thyroid hormone into the body the body’s metabolism slows down, a person feels tired even though they sleep enough, and they feel cold, have constipation, muscle aches, brittle nails and weight gain. This is called Hypothyroidism. The opposite happens when someone has Hyperthyroidism.
- Thyroid disease is diagnosed with a simple blood test that looks for the signals the brain uses to tell the thyroid when to make T3 and T4. This signal is called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). The blood tests will also look for T3 and T4 to make sure there is enough and not too little or too much.
- A thyroid scan may also be used which can be as simple as an ultrasound of the neck or a little more complicated using a special form of iodine that can be detected with a scanner. These scans show physicians what the inside of the thyroid gland looks like which is helpful for ruling out certain diseases like thyroid cancer.
Thyroid disease can happen for a number of reasons, but usually from a disorder called thyroiditis which is an inflammation of the thyroid gland and causes many forms of thyroid disease. This inflammation is also called Hashimoto’s disease.
Hypothyroidism is treated with giving the body the hormones it needs. This means a simple pill containing T4 or sometimes an additional dose of T3 each morning is all that is needed. The dosage may need to change over time so monitoring the amount in the blood regularly is important.
Content provided by Michael Teesdale, Lincoln Memorial University, DeBusk College of Medicine, 3rd Year Student