Categories: Endocrinology

The Thyroid Gland: Let’s Get To Know It

Do you know which organ to blame when you have bouts of mood swings? Yes, the thyroid gland! The butterfly-like organ in the front of our neck situated just below the larynx. It’s one of the most important organs in our body that helps our physical and mental growth. Let’s get to know more about thyroid, its problems, the thyroid hormones, thyroid disorders, its treatments and more.

 Thyroid: what does it do?

The thyroid gland is responsible for secreting various hormones. Collectively, these hormones are called thyroid hormones. Out of these, the main hormone is called thyroxine or T4. Thyroid hormones function in many ways throughout the body and are responsible for metabolism, growth and development, body temperature, etc. Adequate thyroid hormone is crucial for brain development in infancy and childhood.

Common thyroid problems

There are many conditions that affect the thyroid gland. Let’s take a look at them one by one.

Goitre:  Probably one of the most common thyroid disorders, goitre is characterised by the swelling of the neck.  It can be either harmless or caused by iodine deficiency.

Thyroiditis: Either the result of a viral infection or autoimmune condition, thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid. It can be painful or appear with absolutely no symptoms at all.

Hyperthyroidism: As the name suggests, the condition is caused by excessive production of the thyroid hormone. Graves’ disease or an overactive thyroid nodule triggers the condition.

Hypothyroidism: When the production of the thyroid hormone is inadequate, it leads to the condition. Autoimmune-disease induced thyroid damage is the most common cause of hypothyroidism.

Graves’ disease: Caused by the overstimulated thyroid, this is an autoimmune condition.

Thyroid cancer: It’s an uncommon form of cancer and is usually curable with surgery, radiation and hormone treatments.

Thyroid nodule: A very common condition characterised by an abnormal lump in the thyroid gland. It can either be benign or cancerous.

Thyroid storm: it’s a rare condition – a form of hyperthyroidism with extremely high thyroid hormone levels. It causes severe illness.

Symptoms & causes

Though symptoms vary from one thyroid disorder to another, there are many common symptoms that mark thyroid disorders. Some of them are: tremor, nervousness, rapid beating of the heart, fatigue, intolerance for heat, increased bowel movements, increased sweating, difficulty concentrating, unintentional weight loss, dry skin, constipation, feeling cold, muscle pain, joint pain, depression, excessive bleeding in women during menstruation.

The causes of thyroid disorders are manifold. Some of these include the following:

  • Iodine deficiency
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Inflammation of the thyroid caused by bacterial or viral infection
  • Non-cancerous lumps inside the thyroid
  • Certain medicines
  • Some genetic disorders

Diagnosis & treatment   

There are various tests to detect a thyroid disorder. They include thyroid scan, thyroid biopsy, thyroid-stimulating hormone, imaging tests, etc.

The treatments for thyroid disorders vary, ranging from medication to surgery and radiation to injecting thyroid-stimulating agent.

With proper diagnosis and treatment, thyroid disorders including thyroid cancer can be effectively controlled.

Dr. Gopal D | Senior Physician & Intensivist – Internal Medicine | Sahyadri Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Shimoga

Narayana Health

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