The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that regulates the body’s metabolism. Located in the neck, it produces hormones responsible for various bodily processes. An overactive or underactive gland can wreak havoc with your energy levels, throwing off your metabolism and affecting the way your body functions.
Disorders of the Thyroid
The thyroid gland plays a critical role in regulating the amount of energy used by your body. An overactive or underactive gland will produce either too much or too little thyroid hormone, adversely affecting the way your body functions.
Too much hormone is the result of an overactive thyroid, and leads to a condition called hyperthyroidism. This causes your metabolism to speed up and results in a rapid heartbeat, anxiety, irritability, weakness in the muscles, trembling hands, fatigue, weight loss, vision problems, and sensitivity to heat. It is most often caused by Grave’s disease, a condition in which the immune system releases antibodies that attack the thyroid gland, leading to an overproduction of hormone.
Too little hormone, on the other hand, is caused by an underactive thyroid, and is called hypothyroidism. The metabolism slows down, leading to tiredness, depression, weight gain, dry skin, constipation, and sensitivity to cold. It is usually the result of a condition known as Hashimoto’s disease. As with Grave’s disease, this causes the immune system to attack the thyroid gland, only in this case there is an underproduction of hormone.
The thyroid is also susceptible to nodules, benign lumps that occasionally form on the gland. They can cause pain, swelling, hoarseness, and trouble breathing or swallowing as they grow larger.
There are different treatment approaches depending on which thyroid condition is affecting you. Hyperthyroidism can be treated with radioactive iodide, medication, or surgery. Hypothyroidism requires synthetic thyroid hormone. Thyroid nodules are removed surgically.