A functioning thyroid gland helps control your body’s metabolism (the rate at which cells use food). Two primary hormones produced by your thyroid gland, thyroxine and triiodothyronine, are controlled by this organ.
Thyroid hormone imbalance can lead to a variety of issues. The good news is that most thyroid issues can be managed effectively.
How your thyroid works
Your thyroid is an integral part of your endocrine system, producing hormones that regulate many bodily functions. Located at the front of your neck just below your voice box (larynx), this butterfly-shaped gland produces hormones necessary for healthy living.
Thyroid hormones play an integral role in managing metabolism – the rate at which your body uses energy. They regulate heart rate and blood pressure, as well as affect how quickly you burn calories.
Your body requires the correct amount of thyroid hormones to stay healthy. Your pituitary gland tells your thyroid how much production to make, and then those hormones are released into the bloodstream and taken up by transport proteins within cells. Thyroid hormones help keep you running at full capacity!
Hypothyroidism occurs when there are insufficient amounts of these hormones in your body. This condition can result in slow metabolism, weight gain and feelings of sluggishness or depression; it may even lead to sleep issues and memory loss.
Your body requires a certain amount of iodine in order to produce thyroid hormones. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t naturally produce this mineral, so you need to consume plenty of iodized table salt and water in order to ensure your thyroid functions optimally.
Another hormone, known as calcitonin, helps regulate calcium levels and bone metabolism. If your thyroid doesn’t make enough of this important hormone, it could lead to problems with bones, teeth and muscles.
Sometimes, the thyroid gland can develop tumors. These tumors may be benign or malignant and have the potential to spread throughout other parts of the thyroid and adjacent tissues.
Thyroid cancer is an uncommon condition, usually occurring in the follicle cells of your thyroid. These cells produce two main thyroid hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).
When your thyroid doesn’t produce the necessary amount of hormones, you may experience symptoms that are difficult to diagnose. These could include:
Treatment for thyroid conditions can be complicated, so consulting an endocrinologist is recommended. Your primary care physician can refer you to an endocrinologist if there are issues managing your thyroid; this is especially essential if you’re pregnant as untreated thyroid conditions during pregnancy can impact the growth and development of your unborn child.
Your thyroid gland is one of a group of glands that secrete hormones directly into your bloodstream. Hormones play an essential role in controlling many bodily functions, such as heart rate, energy level and metabolism.
When your thyroid produces too much or too little of these hormones, it can cause a variety of issues. These may range in severity according to which hormones are produced and depend on what level it’s at.
Thyroid hormones exist in two main forms: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). T4 is the most prevalent form of thyroid hormone found in human bloodstream, accounting for 95 percent of all hormones released by your thyroid gland. T3, on the other hand, accounts for only 5 percent of total hormone concentration but it has greater activity than T4.
T4 and T3 hormones have the power to alter how cells work and how your body absorbs food. Furthermore, these hormones regulate calcium levels in your bloodstream; Calcitonin, another thyroid hormone produced, aids in this process by helping bone cells absorb calcium for added density.
Thyroid hormones are composed of iodine and manufactured within your thyroid. Your thyroid produces both active and inactive forms of these hormones; the free or follicle-stimulating forms are known as free thyroid hormones, while the active forms are called iodine-binding hormones.
Iodine-binding hormones regulate your body’s response to iodine, which can be found in food, supplements and some medications. Some of these hormones also function as neurotransmitters that send signals to the brain, nerves and other parts of your body.
If you have thyroid disease, medication may be required to replace your body’s thyroid hormones. Your healthcare provider will prescribe the appropriate dose and monitor your condition with blood tests to make sure the medication is working as intended.
Thyroid disorders can have a significant impact on your heart rate, mood, energy level, metabolism and bone health – and may even interfere with pregnancy or the postpartum period. You may develop thyroid issues when your immune system mistakenly attacks the gland – these conditions are known as autoimmune diseases – which have an extensive adverse effect on health.
If you have a thyroid nodule, it’s essential to monitor its progress. Make an appointment with your doctor for regular checkups and ultrasound or CT scans as well as taking hormone pills for optimal thyroid functioning.
Thyroid nodules are lumps that develop within the tissue surrounding an enlarged thyroid gland, usually located in the middle of the lower neck just above the breastbone (figure 1). They may be solid or fluid-filled.
Most thyroid nodules are benign — meaning they’re not cancerous. While most do not cause symptoms, if one does occur it may press on nearby structures and require treatment.
Thyroid nodules are an unfortunately common occurrence, occurring in about half of all people by age 60. They may develop due to genetic problems, low levels of iodine in the body or exposure to ionizing radiation.
Your healthcare provider may detect a thyroid nodule during physical examination or ultrasound of the thyroid. They can also detect it with tests to diagnose another condition in your head or neck, such as an ultrasound, CT or MRI scan.
Most thyroid nodules are benign, but about 5% may be cancerous. When a nodule on your thyroid is suspected to be cancerous, your healthcare provider will run tests to learn more about it and decide if surgery is necessary.
If the nodule is a follicular neoplasm, your healthcare provider will perform a biopsy and test for specific molecular markers that indicate whether or not the cells are malignant. If confirmed, a thyroidectomy will be conducted to remove the entire gland.
Most thyroid nodules are benign, but around 5-10% may be cancerous. When cancer is detected, you may require surgery to remove the gland and may then require medication to manage your thyroid condition.
Thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that develops from cells making thyroid hormones. It can affect all lobes of the gland or just one lobe, usually found in older individuals and often spreads to other parts of the body.
Thyroid cancer can be a challenging diagnosis to receive, particularly when it has spread to other parts of the body (metastasized). Fortunately, most types of thyroid cancer respond well to treatment.
The most common sign of thyroid cancer is a lump or nodule in the neck that does not go away. Your doctor can perform additional tests to confirm its presence and assess its stage.
Biopsies of nodules can determine whether they are cancerous and identify the type of tumor. Knowing this information is critical so that an appropriate treatment can be given.
A blood test can also check your hormone levels and ensure your thyroid is working optimally. This test may be combined with a biopsy in order to help confirm the diagnosis.
Once a biopsy confirms the presence of cancer, your healthcare provider may suggest surgically removing part or all of your thyroid by performing what is known as a thyroidectomy.
Some types of thyroid cancer can be treated with radiation therapy, which uses intense energy to destroy or shrink tumors before surgery. Other cases may require chemotherapy drugs that target specific chemicals present in thyroid cancer cells and cause them to die.
These treatments can be combined or used separately to address different stages of the disease. It’s essential that you discuss your options with your doctor so that you can select the most appropriate plan for you.
Your doctor may suggest participating in a clinical trial, which is an investigational research study testing a novel approach to cancer treatment. Clinical trials provide doctors with insight into whether such methods are safe and effective compared with current standard treatments.
If you have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, the most important thing to remember is that you can take control of your health and be an active partner in treatment. Eating healthily, exercising regularly, and trying to reduce stress are all great steps in the right direction; additionally, asking your doctor for support and advice may be beneficial.