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What Does Your Thyroid Gland Do

Hypothyroidism Is The Most Common Thyroid Disorder

How does the thyroid manage your metabolism? – Emma Bryce

The thyroid does a lot for your body. It makes hormones that keep organs running properly. It also controls the way you use energy: for example, how you burn calories and how fast your heart beats.

But sometimes this powerful gland doesn’t work like it’s supposed to.

One common thyroid condition, called hyperthyroidism, causes the thyroid to make more hormones than the body needs.

But the most common thyroid disorder is hypothyroidism, which affects about 4.6% of people in the U.S. This condition causes a lack of hormone, which leads the thyroid to slow down. People with hypothyroidism often gain weight and feel tired, but some may not have any symptoms at all.

Who Might Have Thyroid Cancer

Women are three times more likely than men to get thyroid cancer. The disease is commonly diagnosed in women in their 40s and 50s, and men in their 60s and 70s. Even children can develop the disease. Risk factors include:

  • Exposure to radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons or a power plant accident.

What Are Healthy Levels For Thyroid Antibodies

If a recent lab test has shown that you have elevated thyroid antibodies, your next question might be, How can I bring them down to normal levels?

When it comes to thyroid antibodies, striving for perfection may be overrated. Research shows that patients with TPO levels below 500 are unlikely to become hypothyroid.

If your TPO levels are higher than 500, its worth making an effort to bring your antibody levels down. This can be accomplished through diet and lifestyle changes, and improvements in gut health. If your antibody levels are below 500, good gut health and lifestyle improvements may reduce your antibodies further, but theres no reason to obsess over the numbers. Whats important is feeling energetic and symptom-free.

For more information see: What Are Healthy Levels for Thyroid Antibodies?

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How Do I Know If My Thyroid Dose Is Correct

Monitoring thyroid levels on medication Correct dosing of thyroid hormone is usually assessed using the same tests for diagnosis of thyroid disease, including TSH and FT4. Thyroid tests are typically checked every 4-6 weeks initially and then every 6 to 12 months once stable. In special circumstances, such as pregnancy, a history of thyroid cancer, central hypothyroidism, amiodarone therapy, or use of combination T4 and T3 thyroid hormone replacement, your endocrinologist may check different thyroid tests. Additionally, your endocrinologist will evaluate for symptoms of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism and peform a physicial exam.

Women who are pregnant and women who may become pregnant should only be treated with levothyroxine . Only T4 efficiently crosses the placenta to provide thyroid hormone to the developing fetus. Thyroid hormone is critical in early pregnancy for brain development. Normal ranges for thyroid tests in pregnancy are different and change by trimester. Women with thyroid disease in pregnancy or who are considering pregnancy should be under the care of an endocrinologist to guide therapy.

Got Questions About Normal Thyroid Hormone Levels?

How Is Thyroid Cancer Treated

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The main treatment for thyroid cancer is surgery to take out the whole thyroid gland or as much of it as can be safely removed. Surgery alone can cure thyroid cancer if the cancer is small and has not yet spread to lymph nodes.

Your doctor may also use radioiodine therapy after surgery. Radioiodine therapy destroys any thyroid cancer cells that were not removed during surgery or that have spread to other parts of the body.

Your doctor may also talk with you about other treatments for thyroid cancer. Learn more about thyroid cancer treatments at the National Cancer Institute.

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What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor

If you have thyroid cancer, you may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • Why did I get thyroid cancer?
  • What type of thyroid cancer do I have?
  • Has the cancer spread outside of the thyroid gland?
  • What is the best treatment for this type of thyroid cancer?
  • What are the treatment risks and side effects?
  • Will I need thyroid replacement hormone therapy?
  • Is my family at risk for developing this type of thyroid cancer? If so, should we get genetic tests?
  • Can I get thyroid cancer again?
  • Am I at risk for other types of cancer?
  • What type of follow-up care do I need after treatment?
  • Should I look out for signs of complications?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is unsettling, regardless of the type. Fortunately, most thyroid cancers respond extremely well to treatment. Your healthcare provider can discuss the best treatment option for the type of thyroid cancer you have. After treatment, you may need to take synthetic thyroid hormones for life. These hormones support vital body functions. They usually dont cause any significant side effects, but youll have regular checkups to monitor your health.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/13/2020.

References

What Are The Risks Of Removing The Thyroid Gland

Behind your childs thyroid gland runs the recurrent laryngeal nerves that help to move the vocal folds and the parathyroid glands which help regulate their bodys calcium levels.

Some of the major risk factors following the removal of the thyroid gland are:

  • A hoarse/breathy voice.
  • Low calcium levels.

After surgery your child will need to take a medication to supplement the thyroid function and in some cases a medication to keep calcium levels elevated.

Other risk factors include:

  • A scar on the neck.
  • Bleeding.
  • Fluid collection under the skin.
  • The need for future procedures such as removal of the lymph nodes from the neck.

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Is There A Higher Risk Of Developing Thyroid Disease If I Have Diabetes

If you have diabetes, youre at a higher risk of developing a thyroid disease than people without diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder. If you already have one autoimmune disorder, you are more likely to develop another one.

For people with type 2 diabetes, the risk is lower, but still there. If you have type 2 diabetes, youre more likely to develop a thyroid disease later in life.

Regular testing is recommended to check for thyroid issues. Those with type 1 diabetes may be tested more often immediately after diagnosis and then every year or so than people with type 2 diabetes. There isnt a regular schedule for testing if you have type 2 diabetes, however your healthcare provider may suggest a schedule for testing over time.

If you have diabetes and get a positive thyroid test, there are a few things to you can do to help feel the best possible. These tips include:

  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Taking all of your medications as directed.
  • Getting tested regularly as directed by your healthcare provider.

What Complications Of Hyperthyroidism Can Affect My Body

What Your Thyroid Gland Does The Basics

Hyperthyroidism can impact many parts of your body. Different systems, ranging from your vascular system to your skeletal system can all be affected if you have an overactive thyroid.

Heart

When you have hyperthyroidism, it may feel like your heart is beating very quickly. This rapid heartbeat is a symptom of the condition thats caused by your fast metabolism. The body is running faster than normal when you have hyperthyroidism, making you feel like your heart is racing. Having an irregular heartbeat can increase your risk of different medical conditions, including stroke.

Bones

The bones are the support structure for your body. When you have unchecked high levels of thyroid hormones, your bones can actually become brittle. This can lead to a condition called osteoporosis.

Eyes and Skin

Hyperthyroidism can be caused by a medical condition called Graves disease. This disease can affect both your eyes and skin. It can cause you to have several eye problems, including:

  • Bulging eyes.
  • Double vision and light sensitivity.
  • Redness and swelling of the eyes.

Graves disease can also cause your skin to become red and swollen. This is particularly noticeable on the feet and shins.

Another complication of hyperthyroidism is something called a thyroid storm . This is a sudden and dramatic increase in your symptoms. When this happens, your heart may beat even faster than normal and you may develop a fever. A thyroid storm is an emergency situation.

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Graves Disease Diagnosis And Treatment

A simple physical exam can reveal an enlarged thyroid, enlarged bulging eyes, and signs of increased metabolism, including rapid pulse and high blood pressure. Your doctor will also order blood tests to check for high levels of T4 and low levels of TSH, both of which are signs of Graves disease. A radioactive iodine uptake test might also be administered to measure how quickly your thyroid takes up iodine. A high uptake of iodine is consistent with Graves disease.

Theres no treatment to stop the immune system from attacking the thyroid gland and causing it to overproduce hormones. However, the symptoms of Graves disease can be controlled in several ways, often with a combination of treatments:

  • beta-blockers to control rapid heart rate, anxiety, and sweating
  • antithyroid medications to prevent your thyroid from producing excessive amounts of hormone
  • radioactive iodine to destroy all or part of your thyroid
  • surgery to remove your thyroid gland, a permanent option if you cant tolerate antithyroid drugs or radioactive iodine

Successful hyperthyroidism treatment usually results in hypothyroidism. Youll have to take hormone-replacement medication from that point forward. Graves disease can lead to heart problems and brittle bones if its left untreated.

What Controls Thyroid Hormones

The pituitary gland Overview of the Pituitary Gland The pituitary gland is a pea-sized bit of tissue at the bottom of your brain. Glands are organs that make and release hormones into your blood. Hormones are chemicals that stimulate other cells… read more in your brain makes a hormone called TSH.

  • TSH tells your thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones

If your pituitary gland detects too little thyroid hormone in your blood, it puts out more TSH to stimulate your thyroid gland to make more thyroid hormones. If there’s too much thyroid hormone in your blood, your pituitary puts out less TSH. Then your thyroid gland makes less thyroid hormone.

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How Does The Thyroid Gland Work

The thyroid gland is a vital hormone gland: It plays a major role in the metabolism, growth and development of the human body. It helps to regulate many body functions by constantly releasing a steady amount of thyroid hormones into the bloodstream. If the body needs more energy in certain situations for instance, if it is growing or cold, or during pregnancy the thyroid gland produces more hormones.

This organ is found at the front of the neck, under the voice box. It is butterfly-shaped: The two side lobes lie against and around the windpipe , and are connected at the front by a narrow strip of tissue.

The thyroid weighs between 20 and 60 grams on average. It is surrounded by two fibrous capsules. The outer capsule is connected to the voice box muscles and many important vessels and nerves. There is loose connective tissue between the inner and the outer capsule, so the thyroid can move and change its position when we swallow.

The thyroid tissue itself consists of a lot of small individual lobules that are enclosed in thin layers of connective tissue. These lobules contain a great number of small vesicles called follicles which store thyroid hormones in the form of little droplets.

Thyroid gland cells

The thyroid gland produces three hormones:

  • Triiodothyronine, also known as T3
  • Tetraiodothyronine, also called thyroxine or T4
  • Calcitonin

How Are Thyroid Nodules Treated

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Treatment depends on the type of thyroid nodule. Treatment options include:

  • No treatment/”watchful waiting.” If the nodules are not cancerous, you and your doctor may decide that you dont need to be treated at this time. You will see your doctor on a regular basis so he or she can watch for any changes in the nodules.
  • Radioactive iodine. Your doctor may use radioactive iodine to treat hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules and goiters with several nodules. The radioactive iodine is absorbed into the thyroid gland, causing the nodules to shrink. Pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant should not have this treatment.
  • Surgery. Surgery to take out the nodules is the best treatment for nodules that are cancerous, cause “obstructive symptoms” , and are suspicious .

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What Could Go Wrong With The Thyroid Gland

Normally the thyroid gland produces the exact number of hormones needed to keep your bodys metabolism running and in balance. As described earlier, hormones secreted by the pituitary gland stay constant in your blood circulation, but their levels may increase or decrease when T4 levels in the blood are changing. This hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid feedback loop keeps the levels of T4 in your blood stable and reacts to small changes immediately.

However, there are several disorders associated with the thyroid gland with most problems concerning the production of thyroid hormones. Either the thyroid gland produces too much hormone or your thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormone , resulting in your body using energy faster or slower than it should.

What Are Thyroid Nodules

A thyroid nodule is an unusual growth of thyroid cells in the thyroid gland.

The thyroid is part of the endocrine system, which is made up of glands that secrete various hormones into the bloodstream. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped organ that is located on the front of the neck, just under the Adam’s apple . The thyroid gland, which is made up of the right and left lobes connected to the isthmus , produces and releases thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones control functions such as body temperature, digestion and heart functions.

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What Is The Prognosis For People Who Have Thyroid Cancer

Eight out of 10 people who have thyroid cancer develop the papillary type. Papillary thyroid cancer has a five-year survival rate of almost 100% when the cancer is in the gland . Even when the cancer spreads , the survival rate is close to 80%. This rate means that, on average, youre about 80% as likely to live for at least five years after diagnosis as someone who doesnt have metastatic papillary thyroid cancer.

Five-year survival rates for other thyroid cancer types include:

  • Follicular: Close to 100% for localized around 63% for metastasized.
  • Medullary: Close to 100% for localized around 40% for metastasized.
  • Anaplastic: Close to 31% for localized 4% for metastasized.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Hyperthyroidism

Environmental Factors That Can Affect Your Thyroid Gland

At first, you might not notice the signs or symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Symptoms usually begin slowly. But, over time, a faster metabolism can cause symptoms such as:

  • Weight loss, even if you eat the same or more food
  • Eating more than usual
  • Diarrhea or more bowel movements than normal
  • Fewer and lighter menstrual periods than normal
  • Changes in your eyes that can include bulging of the eyes, redness, or irritation

Hyperthyroidism raises your risk for , a condition that causes weak bones that break easily. In fact, hyperthyroidism might affect your bones before you have any of the other symptoms of the condition. This is especially true of women who have gone through menopause or who are already at high risk of osteoporosis.

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Other Thyroid Gland Disorders

Other disorders of the thyroid gland include:

  • Nodules – lumps in the thyroid. Some are groups of uncontrollably overactive thyroid cells. These are called hot nodules and cause hyperthyroidism. Other nodules are cold. These are generally harmless, but about 20 per cent will be cancerous.
  • Cancer – thyroid cancer is uncommon and is readily treatable, especially if detected early.

Can I Check My Thyroid At Home

You can do a quick and easy self-exam of your thyroid at home. The only tools you need to do this self-exam are a mirror and a glass of water.

To do the thyroid self-exam, follow these steps:

  • Start by identifying where your thyroid is located. Generally, youll find the thyroid on the front of your neck, between your collar bone and Adams apple. In men, the Adams apple is much easier to see. For women, its usually easiest to look from the collar bone up.
  • Tip your head back while looking in a mirror. Look at your neck and try to hone in on the space you will be looking once you start the exam.
  • Once youre ready, take a drink of water while your head is tilted back. Watch your thyroid as you swallow. During this test, youre looking for lumps or bumps. You may be able to see them when you swallow the water.

Repeat this test a few times to get a good look at your thyroid. If you see any lumps or bumps, reach out to your healthcare provider.

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What Do You Do When Your Child Has A Thyroid Nodule

The first step if your child has a thyroid nodule is to get an ultrasound. This will help your healthcare provider assess the quality of your childs nodule and determine if additional workup is needed. In some cases a repeat ultrasound is needed, and in some cases a biopsy. This all depends on what it looks like on the ultrasound. Some nodules require labs to look at how the thyroid is functioning.

What Causes Thyroid Problems

8.2.3 Thyroid Gland Structure and Function

Thyroid dysfunction is when too much or not enough thyroid hormones are made. It can be caused by:

  • primary thyroid disorders problems in the thyroid gland itself or
  • central thyroid disorders problems with the pituitary gland or the hypothalamus .

While an inadequate intake of iodine is the most common cause of thyroid disease worldwide, autoimmune problems are the most common cause of thyroid problems in Australia. Sometimes thyroid problems start during or after pregnancy.

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