Understanding the thyroid gland and how to keep it healthy
What is the thyroid gland?
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck along the windpipe, just below the Adam’s apple. It has two lobes on either side, each approximately 6 centimeters long, connected by a small bridge called the isthmus.
Why is your thyroid so important? The thyroid is responsible for creating three different hormones and releasing them into the bloodstream. These hormones help to regulate the body’s metabolic process, meaning they control how the heart, muscles, digestive system, liver and brain work. The thyroid levels in the blood are monitored by the pituitary gland, which is located in the brain. The pituitary gland communicates with the thyroid to maintain the correct levels of thyroid hormones, ensuring proper functioning of all bodily processes.
Diseases that can affect the thyroid gland
There are many diseases and disorders that can affect the proper functioning and health of the thyroid gland. The most common include:
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
Sometimes the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones, causing certain bodily functions to slow down. This is called hypothyroidism or having an underactive thyroid gland. People suffering from this condition may often feel cold, be unusually tired and have dry skin. They may also have a slow heart rate or unexplained weight gain.
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).
Sometimes the thyroid gland begins to produce too many hormones, more than what the body needs to function properly. This is called hyperthyroidism or having an overactive thyroid gland. In this situation, the bodily functions affected begin to speed up. Someone with an overactive thyroid may feel uncomfortably warm, experience unexplained weight loss, be irritated or anxious, have difficulty concentrating or have an unusually fast heart rate.
A goiter is another term for an enlarged thyroid gland. This condition can occur for many different reasons. The most common causes for this condition are an iodine deficiency or an autoimmune disease. Goiters can grow to be quite large in size, causing a large lump to form on the outside of the neck or throat area. Goiters are usually painless, however, they can lead to difficulty in swallowing or breathing when they become large.
How to keep your thyroid healthy
One of the most important factors for thyroid health is maintaining proper intake of iodine. Iodine is a mineral found in foods such as seafood and seaweed, beans, certain fruits and vegetables and iodized table salt. A simple blood test is usually enough to diagnose a thyroid problem, and there are medications available by prescription that can help to balance your thyroid hormone levels.
The thyroid is an important gland, and its proper function is important for you to maintain good health. If you are showing any of the symptoms of an improperly functioning thyroid gland, visit the Velocity Care walk-in clinic in Little Rock, Arkansas or one of our urgent care clinics in Louisiana – Bossier City, Natchitoches and Shreveport – for a blood test today.
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