Your thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped organ located in the middle of your neck. The thyroid gland is responsible for controlling your hormones.
Let's talk about thyroid problems including the signs and symptoms of thyroid issues, plus how to get tested if you suspect you are living with a thyroid condition.
- What is the thyroid gland?
- What are the symptoms of thyroid issues?
- How does the thyroid gland work?
- Hyperthyroidism/overactive thyroid explained
- Hypothyroidism/underactive thyroid explained
- Should you get your thyroid tested?
- Learn more about thyroid problems with Dr. Dominic Rowley
What is the thyroid gland?
The thyroid is a small gland located in the middle of the lower neck. The male thyroid gland is located just below the Adam’s apple.
The thyroid gland produces hormones which are responsible for all cell functions including regulating your metabolism, hair growth, breathing and heart rate.
The thyroid gland is responsible for the production and secretion of thyroid hormones, triidothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
Triidothyronine (T3) plays a role in your body's metabolic rate, regulating the digestive system, muscle control, brain development and the function and maintenance of bones. Triidothyronine is the active form of the thyroid hormones produced by the thyroid gland.
Thyroxine (T4) is the main hormone produced by the thyroid gland. Thyroxine has the same role as triidothyronine. Thyroxine is the inactive form of the thyroid hormones produced by the thyroid gland.
To simplify this, you could say that T3 is the key player in making things happen within your body. T4 on the other hand is the carrier or transporter of T3 around the body.
The thyroid gland is the engine behind the production and secretion of both thyroid hormones. If your thyroid gland isn't performing optimally, neither are you.
What are the symptoms of thyroid problems?
The symptoms of thyroid problems can be difficult to spot and may be attributed to dietary changes, a new routine or a busy schedule. Let's talk about some of the most common symptoms of thyroid problems.
Some of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Unexplained weight gain
- Chronic fatigue
- Low blood pressure/slower pulse rate
- Tingling skin
- Irregular periods
- Low libido
- Short term memory loss
- Muscle cramping
- Hair loss or thinning
- Dry or rough skin
Some of the most common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Chronic fatigue
- High blood pressure or increased pulse rate
- Heat intolerance
- Itchy skin or hives
- Low libido
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle weakness
- Hair loss or thinning
- Smooth, warm or moist skin
In cases where the thyroid gland produces an insufficient volume of thyroxine and triidothyronine, you are said to have hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid.
In cases where the thyroid gland produces a high volume of thyroxine and triidothyronine, you are said to have hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid.
You may experience an under or over active thyroid due to a number of other medical conditions.
Here are the most common symptoms of thyroid problems summarized:
How does the thyroid gland work?
The pituitary gland controls thyroid function. It is a small gland the size of a peanut at the base of the brain. When thyroxine and triiodothyronine hormones drop too low, the pituitary gland produces thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). This stimulates the thyroid gland to produce more essential hormones.
The thyroid gland takes iodine from foods and converts it into thyroid hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3)
To try and simplify this defintion, imagine that the pituitary gland is the automatic central heating in your home and thyroxine and triidothyronine represent how hot or cold your house is.
If your thyroid gland is not producing a sufficient volume of thyroid hormones to ensure that your metabolic rate is in check, your pituitary gland "switches on" the central heating. The pituitary gland will produce thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) will stimulate the production of T4 and T3.
If your thyroid gland is producing too high a volume of thyroid hormones to ensure cell function is ticking over, your pituitary gland "switches off" the central heating. The pituitary gland will stop producing thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and will slow down the production of T4 and T3.
To fully simplify this definition, a break down in communication between members of the endocrine system is one of the most common causes of an over or under active thyroid. Physiological damage to the endocrine system and autoimmune disorders are also common causes of thyroid issues.
Hyperthyroidism/overactive thyroid explained
Hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid occurs when the thyroid gland produces an excessive level of thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).
It's caused by:
- The body absorbing too much iodine as a result of Graves’ disease (an immune-system disorder)
- Inflammation of the thyroid due to infections
Hyperthyroidism can be treated by surgery or medications to slow hormone production down.
Hypothyroidism/underactive thyroid explained
Hypothyroidism works in the opposite way to hyperthyroidism. An under-active thyroid occurs when the gland does not secrete enough hormones.
It’s caused by:
- Low levels of iodine and inflammation of the thyroid gland due to autoimmune reactions
- Radiation exposure
Hypothyroidism can be treated with surgery or medications to speed hormone production up.
Should you get your thyroid tested?
In this video, Dr. Dominic Rowley explains how at home health testing works:
Learn more about thyroid problems with Dr. Dominic Rowley
In this video, Dr. Dominic Rowley recaps on everything you need to know about your thyoid:
Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley