There are many parts of the body the lay man is not aware of; one of such is the thyroid gland. It is a gland that secretes the thyroxine hormone and triiodothyronine hormone.
Do you know what determines the speed with which the cells in your body work? It is the thyroid gland, butterfly-shaped and it is to be found in the front of your neck below your adam’s apple and above the notch at the base of your neck where it connects with the chest. It has two lobes – the right lobe and the left lobe lying on either side of the wind-pipe.
The two hormones that the thyroid gland makes are secreted into the blood stream. The first, thyroxine, contains four atoms of iodine and is often called T4. The other is called triiodothyronine, which contains three atoms of iodine and is often called T3. In the cells and tissues of the body the T4 is converted to T3. It is the T3, derived from T4 or secreted as T3 from the thyroid gland, which is biologically active and influences the activity of all the cells and tissues of your body.
If too much of the thyroid hormones are secreted, the body cells work faster than normal, and causes hyperthyroidism. If this occurs, there is increased activity of the body cells or body organs and this may lead to a quickened heart rate or increased activity of the intestine so that such a person develops frequent bowel activity or even diarrhoea.
Alternatively if too little of the thyroid hormones are produced, this is called hypothyroidism. The cells and organs of the body slow down, and citing the example above, the heart rate may be slower than normal and the intestines work sluggishly, causing constipation.
Thyroid disorders are very common with about one in 20 people having some kind of thyroid disorder, which may be temporary or permanent, and anyone can be affected but they tend mainly to occur in women.
Symptoms and signs of Hyperthyroidism
These can include:
- Fast heart rate
- Intolerance for heat
- Increase in bowel movements
- Increased sweating
- Concentration problems
- Unintentional weight loss
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
These can include:
- Poor concentration or feeling mentally “foggy”
- Dry skin
- Feeling cold
- Fluid retention
- Muscle and joint aches
- Prolonged or excessive menstrual bleeding in women
- Neck swelling
If you have any of the above symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider immediately for testing. Investigations will involve checking the level of the thyroid hormones.
Treatment can either be with medication or through surgery.
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