- by Portea Homecare
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- Aug 26 2017
What You Should Know About Thyroid Health?
The thyroid gland, shaped like a butterfly, is located right at the frontal area of your neck (just beneath the Adam’s apple). The health of your thyroid affects almost every single cell of your body and a host of other metabolic processes. Not only that, this gland regulates many other functions such as growth and development in children and almost every other physiological process.
Thyroid hormone secretions, either in excess or in little quantities, can spell out trouble and hamper the way all the systems in your body work. At suboptimal levels, it can be the cause of various disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome1, fibromyalgia, infertility (in both the sexes) and other auto-immune diseases such as eczema, gum diseases, etc. Hence, it becomes important to know how exactly this ‘all-important’ gland works.
KNOWING HOW IT WORKS OPTIMALLY
The gland is located right beneath the voice box. A tissue called the ‘isthmus’ connects both the lobes of the thyroid gland which are present on each side of the trachea. A healthy and an optimally functioning thyroid gland should weight anywhere between 20-60 grams.
The three kinds of hormones which are secreted by the thyroid gland are:
- Thyroxine (T4)
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
- Diiodothyronine (T2)
The hormones that the thyroid gland secretes is co-ordinated with other hormones such as cortisol, insulin and sex hormones including testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. This precisely explains why a thyroid gland that isn’t in top shape can mess with almost any function of the body.
The hormone that is produced most by the thyroid gland is the T4 hormone or Thyroxine2. It is then converted into Triiodothyronine (T3) which is the active form. However, there isn’t much information available on the T2 hormone and research is still on.
With the gland functioning optimally, the T3 and T4 hormones will optimally regulate and maintain all the metabolic processes of the body. The moment the T3 hormone’s levels are thrown off balance, either due to less secretion or because of inadequate conversion from T4, your entire system takes a beating. The hormone ‘Tri-iodothyronine’ helps lower the bad cholesterol levels, contributes to hair growth and burns fat.
The T3 levels get disturbed, primarily by nutrition imbalances, allergens, stress, toxins and all these lead to disorders broadly labelled under hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland), hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland), thyroid cancer and many others.
HYPOTHYROIDISM AND HYPERTHYROIDISM- THE MOST COMMON THYROID RELATED DISORDERS
Hypothyroidism: An underactive thyroid gland is the reason behind this particular condition. In other words, Hypothyroidism 3 develops with little secretion of the thyroid hormone; a condition that is associated to iodine deficiency. Some of the symptoms of this condition include sudden weight gain, fatigue, increased sensitivity to cold temperatures, scaly skin, loss of hair and a lower than normal basal temperature (below 97.6 degrees Fahrenheit). And obviously, a family history of hypothyroidism makes you even more likely to suffer from the same.
Hyperthyroidism: This is the result of an overactive thyroid gland or because of excess secretion of the thyroid hormone T4. This condition is more common among women and can develop across any age. Owing to the excess secretion of the hormone, certain bodily functions may get accelerated. Few major indicators of hyperthyroidism4 are nervousness, restlessness, irritability, emotional imbalance, irregular bowel movements, trouble concentrating on anything, irregular periods among women, sudden weight gain (though rare) and weight loss, irregular heartbeats and exophthalmos (the eyes protruding abnormally). Some of these symptoms might go unnoticed to start with and then suddenly flare up as the hormone levels skyrocket further. Women afflicted with this condition may experience tremendous difficulty while conceiving. An overactive thyroid gland is associated with other disorders such as cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation (irregular rhythm of the heart), heart failure and angina (chest pain).
HOW IS THE DIAGNOSIS DONE?
Diagnosis is done using any of the following tests:
- TSH test- Ideally, the TSH score should be in the range of 1-1.5 mIU/L
- Free T3 and Free T4- Free T3 (ideally 240-450 picograms/deciliter) and Free T4 (ideally 0.9-1.8 nanograms/deciliter)
- BBT (Basal Body Temperature)-Temperature below 97.6 degrees Fahrenheit is considered to be abnormal.
- TAT (Thyroid Antibody Test)-A test to determine whether the body is fighting its own tissues; i.e. to detect the presence of any auto-immune disorder.
- Thyrotropin Releasing Hormone Test- The TRH test is conducted to assess whether hypothyroidism is the result of any deficiency of the body’s pituitary gland.
- Other special thyroid tests which may be administered include a thyroid ultrasound or a thyroid scan test. However, these are recommended only in special scenarios.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE AT RISKS OF THYROID CANCER?
Certain things which could be indicative of thyroid cancer include unusual swelling or lump in one’s neck, pain in the throat that has no apparent reason behind it, changes in voice such as sudden hoarseness that may persist and a lasting cough that is not caused due to cold. Other determinants of thyroid cancer are, but not restricted to, gender (women are thrice as likely to suffer from it as compared to men), age (20-55 is the vulnerable age group), deficiency of iodine, a family history of thyroid cancer and the environment (one that involves daily exposure to radiations such as routine X-rays and other materials that are radioactive in nature) that one stays in.
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