The thyroid gland is involved in almost every function of the body. It controls the rate at which the body does things. It controls our metabolism and thus our heart rate and our temperature.
The thyroid gland is a bow tie shaped gland located on the front of the neck between the Adam's apple and the collar bone. When your doctor examines you and feel round your neck, he or she may be looking to see if there are any enlargements or nodules on the thyroid gland.
Problems with the thyroid glands are quite common. About one in twenty people has a thyroid disorder. It is even more common in women.
Because the symptoms can be non-specific, they are sometimes mistaken for other problems. It may affects energy levels, moods, heat and cold tolerance and even fertility in women.
Too little hormone production or hypothyroidism occurs when the gland does not produce enough of the thyroid hormone. Symptoms include loss of energy, dry skin, loss of hair, forgetfulness, and feeling cold.
Hyperthyroidism speeds up the body and people experience rapid heart beat and rapid weight loss, nervousness and bulging eyes.
Iodine is a chemical contained in every thyroid hormone. In parts of the world where there is little iodine in the foods or where the salt has not been added iodine (iodized salt) people may develop an enlarged thyroid or goiter.
The thyroid also can be affected by auto immune diseases. Both George and Barbara Bush have been diagnosed with Grave's disease. Cancer of the thyroid is also quite common and luckily, very treatable.
Thyroid tests include blood tests, needle biopsies, and scans, depending on what your doctor suspects is the matter.
Treatments, too, depend on the diagnosis. For cancer, surgery followed by thyroid hormone replacement may be necessary. Hypothyroidism also requires hormones. A goiter may be helped by iodine replacement.
Since thyroid problems are more common as we age, especially among women, it is important to report any unusual symptoms to your doctor, especially is there have been thyroid problems in your family.
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