Mature doctor checking thyroid of smiling woman in clinic

The Thyroid

What is it and what does it do?

by Emma Ware

The thyroid is a 2-inch long, butterfly shaped gland in the front of your neck that controls your metabolism. It’s part of your endocrine system, which makes chemicals called hormones that help control many of your body functions. 

Let’s break it down some. We know where it is located, now let’s look at the miraculous functions it was designed to perform.

Two hormones made by the thyroid help regulate your metabolism. They are the chemical processes that break down what you eat to make energy. They affect how fast your heart beats, how deep you breathe and whether you gain or lose weight. They also help control your body temperature, cholesterol levels, and women’s menstrual cycles.

Doctors call these hormones T-3 and T-4 for short. WebMD describes how the thyroid releases them into your bloodstream, which takes them through your body. Another gland called the pituitary gland tells your thyroid how much of these hormones your body needs.

There are two types of problems that can happen to the thyroid.

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid doesn’t make enough hormones. That slows down your metabolism and can make you gain weight and feel sluggish and or depressed. More severe cases are sometimes called Hashimoto’s disease when your body’s disease fighting immune system attacks the thyroid. Other possible changes are difficulty thinking, constipation, hair loss, brittle fingernails, puffy face and low energy.

Hyperthyroidism can result in losing weight, feeling sluggish or depressed, your heart races and you feel weak. Irritability and uncommon sweating can also occur. Physical changes can include: fine and brittle hair, thinning skin, and increased sensitivity to heat. These symptoms come from the thyroid producing too many hormones.

When any of these symptoms appear, it’s time to have your medical doctor order thyroid function tests and those should include TSH and both T-3 and T-4 for a complete report. It will require a fasting blood draw; if either condition is diagnosed, there likely will be prescribed a thyroid medication that will work to regulate the amount of hormones needed to correct the condition.

The thyroid is an important part of the human body and needs to be cared for and monitored when not functioning properly. At all costs, keep your thyroid healthy.

As always, let me again remind you to always check with your doctor before making any changes to your health routine.

Consultations by appointment at my office in the Market Common, 2798-D Howard Avenue. Call me at 843 997-7037 with questions or comments on this article.



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