10 Signs Something’s Up With Your Thyroid
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck. It is about 2-inches long and lies in front of your throat below the prominence of thyroid cartilage sometimes called the Adam’s apple. During a routine physical exam your doctor may place their fingers on this area of your throat and ask you to swallow. They are feeling the lobes (“wings”) of this gland. The purpose of this is to determine the size and free movement of the thyroid.
This gland is one of many that make up our endocrine system. It’s function is to take iodine from the food we eat and convert it into thyroid hormones Triiodothyronine(T3) and Thyroxine(T4). These hormones are then circulated throughout the body by the blood in order to carry out metabolism. It should be noted, that the cells of the thyroid are the only ones in the body that are capable of absorbing iodine. These cells take the iodine and combine it with an amino acid called Tyrosine to produce T3 and T4.
Like many other glands within the endocrine system, the thyroid is controlled by another gland, called the pituitary. The pituitary is about the size of a small peanut and is located at the base of the brain. This gland acts to regulate the proper levels of thyroid hormones in our body. When thyroid hormones decrease, the pituitary release thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). This in turn, tells the thyroid to produce and secrete more T3 and T4 hormones. When these reach an adequate level in the body, the pituitary gland senses this and reduces the amount of THS being released.
As you can tell already, the endocrine system is quite complicated. We are about to make this process a little bit more involved and add another step. The pituitary gland is also regulated by another gland in the brain, called the hypothalamus. This gland produces and releases TSH Releasing Hormone (TRH), which in turn tells the pituitary gland to stimulate the thyroid gland. It is much like a chain reaction where each step must function correctly and in the proper order to be successful.
With all that being said, what happens if this sequence doesn’t work properly? This can affect the way your body uses energy and regulates vital body functions, including:
- Body weight
- Heart rate
- Body temperature
- Central nervous system
- Peripheral nervous system
- Muscle strength
- Menstrual cycles
- Cholesterol levels
When the thyroid is overactive and produces too much hormone, this is called hyperthyroidism. If there is too much thyroid hormone, every function of the body tends to speed up. It is not surprising that some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are:
- Weight loss
- Increased perspiration
- Rapid pulse
- Hand tremors
- Difficulty sleeping
- Muscle weakness
- Changes in skin and hair loss
You may have more frequent bowel movements, but diarrhea is uncommon. You may lose weight despite a good appetite. For women, menstrual flow may lighten and menstrual periods may occur less often. Since hyperthyroidism increases your metabolism, many individuals initially have a lot of energy. However, as the condition continues, the body tends to break down, so being tired is very common.