The Importance Of The Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland produces a hormone that is absolutely essential for regulating many of the other processes that go on in our body, particularly metabolic functions. It also helps regulate our blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. When this gland is functioning correctly, our bodies run smoothly. When it malfunctions, as happens with hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, thyroid cancer and other thyroid health problems, the repercussions are felt around the body!
Common Thyroid Disorders – Hypothyroidism
A slowdown in thyroid hormone production, or hypothyroidism, for instance can lead to weight gain. This is because our cells become less active, requiring less energy to function and therefore less fuel. However, if we keep putting energy into our body at the same rate as normal, the excess fuel gets converted to body fat. Other symptoms of an under active thyroid may include poor memory, dry skin, fatigue, susceptibility to feeling the cold more, thinning hair, depression and so on. Unfortunately, other health issues can also cause many of these symptoms so hypothyroidism may go undetected for a long time. Hypothyroidism treatment is usually via daily administration of a synthetic thyroid hormone. This treatment will restore near normal thyroid hormone levels and correct the symptoms.
Common Thyroid Disorders – Hyperthyroidism
When thyroid hormone production speeds up, the condition is called hyperthyroidism. A hyperactive thyroid can manifest itself as tiredness, weight loss, intolerance for heat, nervousness and heart palpitations. Again, these symptoms are not unique to excess thyroid hormone production so the underlying cause may not immediately be picked up. Hyperthyroidism can be treated by a thyroidectomy.
Common Thyroid Disorders – Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer is of course cancer of the thyroid gland. More common in women than men, thyroid cancer often occurs when people hit their 50’s. Some people may experience no symptoms at all whilst others may develop a lump where the thyroid gland is. Other symptoms may include swollen glands, difficulty with swallowing and/or breathing, localized pain, a hoarse voice, or even a persistent cough not related to a cold or virus. Thyroid cancer if caught in time is usually successfully treated by removed of the affected cells or the entire gland via a thyroidectomy.
Common Thyroid Disorders – Goiter
Another common thyroid condition is goiter, which is an enlarged thyroid and presents with a similar lump in the front of the throat to cancer. Symptoms if present are similar to thyroid cancer so patients may experience problems with swallowing and breathing if the lump is large enough to interfere with the windpipe and oesophagus. It may also cause coughing. Goiter can be caused by both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. It can even occur when thyroid hormone production is normal! Sometimes the lump will disappear of its own accord without treatment but many cases require a thyroidectomy.
The thyroid can also grow nodules or become inflamed. If you are concerned about your thyroid gland, there are thyroid tests available. Whatever the cause of your thyroid problem, it is important to seek immediate medical attention so appropriate thyroid treatment can be started as quickly as possible.