What is the thyroid gland?
The thyroid is a small gland found between the Adam's apple and the windpipe in the neck, and is responsible for producing hormones related to metabolism called thyroxine and triiodothyronine, more commonly known as T4 and T3. These two hormones regulate the speed at which your body cells and tissues work. The T4 hormone contains 4 atoms of iodine whereas the T3, as the name suggests, contains 3 atoms of iodine.
What happens when the thyroid gland doesn't function properly?
When there is a malfunction in the thyroid gland, it can have several ill effects on your body. The most common problem that occurs with the thyroid gland is either the over secretion or under secretion of the T4 and T3 hormones. The over secretion of thyroid hormones is known as hyperthyroidism, whereas the under secretion called hypothyroidism. While these two are the most common malfunctions of the thyroid gland, other malfunctions such as the thyroid eye disease, swelling of the thyroid gland or even thyroid cancer may occur as well.
What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?
If thyroid hormones are secreted in excess, body cells work faster than normal. This is known as hyperthyroidism. It may lead to quickening of the heart rate, increased activity of the intestines which may lead to diarrhoea, an overactive metabolism causing rapid weight loss, hair loss, insomnia, restlessness and hyperactivity, among other lifestyle challenges.
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
When the production of thyroid hormones is insufficient, the body may appear to have a slower response to everything. The heart becomes slower, intestines become sluggish and metabolism slows down, leading to weight gain. A person with hypothyroidism may experience fatigue, dry skin, difficulty in concentration and, in some cases, even depression.
Why does a thyroid disorder occur?
Thyroid disorder could occur for a number of reasons. It could simply be because of aging, or over-exposure to radiation and toxins, or lack of iodine in the diet. An underlying autoimmune disease such as Grave's disease (in case of hyperthyroidism) or Hasimoto's disease (in case of hypothyroidism) can also create a thyroid disorder. Sometimes many women experience thyroid disorders during pregnancy. This is known as post-partum thyroiditis. However, in such cases, the disorder is usually temporary.
Can thyroid disorders be treated, and if so, how?
The good news is that both overactive and underactive thyroid hormone production, can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly, along with daily medication, can ensure that thyroid levels are maintained within a normal range and reverse many of the symptoms experienced. This will even help in regulating the body's metabolic rate, which is essential for proper functioning of the body.