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Thyroid 101: How Your Thyroid Works and Common Complications

September 25, 2018

Your thyroid is a small gland that packs a lot of punch. It's found at the base of your neck and is a major player in your body's endocrine system. When it functions properly, your body works flawlessly keeping you at a healthy weight and body temperature. When there are abnormalities, it will tip your wellness scale causing some symptoms that can be quite uncomfortable and challenging to live with. We discuss everything you need to know about the thyroid and the most common issues so you can help keep it healthy.

What is Thyroid?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that wraps around your throat. It's commonly misconceived to be two individual glands on either sided, but in actuality, it's just one. The thyroid is part of the endocrine system. The endocrine system is a complex network of glands found throughout the body. They make hormones that play a role in your body functioning the way it should. The glands are found amongst your brain, lungs, kidneys, groin, and throat. The hormones secreted by these glands control things like tissue growth, metabolism, and body temperature. If any of these glands aren't functioning correctly, your body can experience different problems with weight gain, getting pregnant, and managing stress.

What Does the Thyroid Do?

Your thyroid is a necessary vessel that works hard to maintain a healthy balance of your metabolism. It can also regulate your body by releasing hormones into the bloodstream. For example, if the body needs more energy because it's cold, the thyroid will produce more hormones. The thyroid creates three different kinds of hormones: T3, T4, and Calcitonin. It's only the T3 and T4 that are specially produced in the thyroid. The primary communicator for the thyroid is the pituitary gland. It closely monitors hormone production and encourages it to create more or less depending on what your body needs.

Common Thyroid Issues

The human body is spectacular, and each part plays a role in health and wellness. The thyroid and its hormones can affect your cholesterol, muscular strength, body weight, and plays a part in menstrual cycles for women. Keeping it healthy is vital. There are a few common issues that can affect this gland from working correctly.

Overactive or Underactive Thyroid

It's possible to have issues with your thyroid producing too many or too few hormones. When your thyroid isn't creating an adequate amount of hormones, it's called underactive thyroid. Someone with an underactive thyroid will notice feeling tired even when they got enough sleep, weight gain, constipation, brain fog, and often cold hands and feet.

An overactive thyroid has symptoms of less sleep, frequent bowel movements, weight loss, irregular heartbeats or palpitations, and thinning hair. Sometimes with an overactive thyroid, there is swelling on the neck called thyroid goiter. Treatment for these kinds of thyroid disorders includes medication to help with hormone regulation.

Thyroid Goiter

A goiter is an enlargement of your thyroid gland. It's often a result of poor iodine consumption. The thyroid utilizes iodine to help pump out the hormones. There are many reasons why the thyroid might enlarge such as iodine deficiency, Grave's disease, Hashimoto's disease, inflammation, and nodules. Enlargement can also be a result of an overactive or underactive thyroid. Goiters can affect anyone. There are some warning signs to look for such as:

  • Visible swelling at the base of the neck
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tightness in the throat

Small goiters won't cause too much physical pain or complications. However, when the swelling is larger more health issues present themselves.

Thyroid Nodules

A nodule is a fluid-filled lump located within the thyroid. The majority of nodules don't cause serious problems but can cause symptoms such as swelling and shortness of breath. There are instances where nodules can affect the amount of hormones secreted causing hyperthyroidism. If this is the case, the individual will display the same symptoms described above for an overactive thyroid.Nodules can develop for different reasons, but the most common are:

  • Iodine deficiency
  • Overgrowth of thyroid tissue
  • Cyst
  • Inflammation
  • Goiter
  • Cancer

In rare instances nodules are cancerous but deciding if they are malignant must be done by a neck specialist.

Nashville Throat Specialist

At OAT, we have world-class head and neck surgeons in Nashville available to treat throat disorders such as nodules and goiters. Regardless of your symptoms, we are available to evaluate and diagnose your condition. We utilize the latest technology and procedures to provide you with a treatment plan to help you feel your best. Visit our website to learn more about neck care and to schedule an appointment today.

Topics: Throat Care