Understanding Thyroid Disorders
Dignity Dialogue|July 2020
The article takes a look at the ailments that impact the thyroid gland and the modes of treatment available.

Thyroid disorders are conditions that affect the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. The thyroid has important roles to regulate numerous metabolic processes throughout the body. Different types of thyroid disorders affect either its structure or function. The thyroid gland is located below the Adam’s apple wrapped around the trachea (windpipe). A thin area of tissue in the gland’s middle, known as the isthmus, joins the two thyroid lobes on each side. The thyroid uses iodine to produce vital hormones. Thyroxine, also known as T4, is the primary hormone produced by the gland.

After delivery via the bloodstream to the body’s tissues, a small portion of the T4 released from the gland is converted to Triiodothyronine (T3), which is the most active hormone. The function of the thyroid gland is regulated by a feedback mechanism involving the brain. When thyroid hormone levels are low, the hypothalamus in the brain produces a hormone known as Thyrotropin Releasing Hormone (TRH) that causes the pituitary gland (located at the base of the brain) to release Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to release more T4.

Since the thyroid gland is controlled by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, disorders of these tissues can also affect thyroid function and cause thyroid problems. What are the specific kinds of thyroid disorders? Hypothyroidism results from the thyroid gland producing an insufficient amount of thyroid hormone. It can develop from problems within the thyroid gland, pituitary gland or hypothalamus. Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include fatigue, poor concentration or feeling mentally ‘foggy’, dry skin, constipation, feeling cold, fluid retention, muscle and joint aches, depression and prolonged or excessive menstrual bleeding in women.

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