What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a small shaped gland that is located in the neck near the Adam’s apple. The gland has several functions including:
- controlling the body’s metabolism
- producing thyroid hormones (thyroxine/T4, triiodothyronine/T3)
- producing calcitonin to regulate calcium levels in the blood
As with most hormones, there is an elaborate communication network that controls the amount of thyroid hormones released into the blood stream. When thyroid hormones decrease, the hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland to release more thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH tells the thyroid gland to produce and secrete more thyroid hormones. When enough thyroid hormones are in the blood stream, TSH decreases and the thyroid hormones, T3/T4 would remain constant.
It is estimated that 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Since some people are asymptomatic, it is believed that even more people have thyroid disease but do not know it. Both men and women can have thyroid problems, but women are more likely than men to have thyroid disorders.
Symptoms for Thyroid Disorders
Many of these symptoms could be indications of thyroid disorder, but they could also be related to other health issues, so be sure to discuss all your symptoms and test results with your health provider.
- Weight Gain
- Heavier menstrual periods
- Brittle hair and nails
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Joint or Muscle Pain
Hypothyroid is when the body has too little thyroid hormone. Untreated hypothyroidism is serious, so early detection and treatment should be conducted. Hypothyroid is determined by taking a Thyroid Panel Test which will test for TSH, T4 and T3. Additionally, it is recommended that the individual test for
Certain drugs such as lithium and amiodarone can promote hypothyroidism.
Levothyroxinen is the most commonly used medication to replace the thyroid hormone that is lacking in the body.
- Doctors typically prescribe the lowest dose that will bring your hormone levels back to normal while relieving any symptoms.
- If you are an older patient and/or have heart disease, your physician may prescribe a very low dose as well.
- Since a thyroid disorder is usually permanent, most individuals will receive thyroid replacement therapy for their entire life.
It is important to monitor your thyroid levels once you start taking synthetic thyroid hormones. Most physicians will want to check your hormone levels every 2 months but some may want testing done more frequently until the level of medication is well established.
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