Preventing Thyroid Gland Disease
It is difficult to prevent thyroid gland disease, as it is not possible to modify some of the known risk factors, such as genetics. However, people can take certain measures to reduce the likelihood.
The main way to reduce the risk of developing hypothyroidism is to consume enough iodine. Because the body does not naturally produce iodine, people must eat food containing iodine or take dietary supplements. However, consuming too much iodine can aversely affect the T3 and T4 hormones.
People should also avoid smoking if they have concerns about thyroid disease, as cigarette smoke can affect iodine uptake.
Types Of Thyroid Cancer
There are 4 main types of thyroid cancer. They are:
- papillary carcinoma this is the most common type, accounting for about 6 out of 10 cases it usually affects people under the age of 40, particularly women
- follicular carcinoma accounts for around 3 out of 20 cases of thyroid cancer and tends to affect older adults
- medullary thyroid carcinoma accounts for between 5 and 8 out of every 100 diagnosed cases unlike the other types of thyroid cancer, medullary thyroid carcinoma can run in families
- anaplastic thyroid carcinoma this is the rarest and most aggressive type of thyroid cancer, accounting for less than 1 in 20 thyroid cancers it usually affects older people over the age of 60
Papillary and follicular carcinomas are sometimes known as differentiated thyroid cancers, and they’re often treated in the same way.
Spotlight On Aging: Thyroid Gland Changes In Older People
Aging itself has only minor effects on the thyroid gland and thyroid hormones. As people get older, the thyroid gland shrinks and shifts lower in the neck. The level of the thyroid hormone triiodothyronine may fall slightly, but the speed of vital functions changes very little. However, thyroid disorders become more common with aging.
Disorders that affect thyroid function, particularly hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, can be thought of as great masqueraders in older people. These disorders often cause symptoms that are easily mistaken for symptoms of other conditions or even as signs of getting old.
Increased or decreased thyroid function can dramatically worsen the way an older person feels and can greatly diminish the ability to carry out daily activities. For these reasons, the great masqueraders must be unmasked and recognized for what they are so that they can be effectively treated.
Screening older people for hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism is helpful. Some experts recommend measuring the level of thyroid-stimulating hormone in the blood in people over 65 every 5 years.
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What Are My Hyperthyroidism Treatment Options
You may receive medicines, radioiodine therapy, or thyroid surgery to treat your hyperthyroidism. The aim of treatment is to bring thyroid hormone levels back to normal to prevent long-term health problems and to relieve uncomfortable symptoms. No single treatment works for everyone.
Treatment depends on the cause of your hyperthyroidism and how severe it is. When recommending a treatment, your doctor will consider your age, possible allergies to or side effects of the medicines, other conditions such as pregnancy or heart disease, and whether you have access to an experienced thyroid surgeon.
Medical Definition Of Thyroid Gland
- Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Reviewed on 3/29/2021
Thyroid gland: A gland that makes and stores hormones that help regulate the heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and the rate at which food is converted into energy. Thyroid hormones are essential for the function of every cell in the body. They help regulate growth and the rate of chemical reactions in the body. Thyroid hormones also help children grow and develop.
The thyroid gland is located in the lower part of the neck, below the Adam’s apple, wrapped around the trachea . It has the shape of a butterfly: two wings attached to one another by a middle part called the isthmus.
The thyroid uses iodine, a mineral found in some foods and in iodized salt, to make its hormones. The two most important thyroid hormones are thyroxine and triiodothyronine . Thyroid stimulating hormone , which is produced by the pituitary gland, acts to stimulate hormone production by the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland also makes the hormone calcitonin, which is involved in calcium metabolism and stimulating bone cells to add calcium to bone.
See also Calcitonin Hyperthyroid Hypothyroidism Thyroid stimulating hormone Thyroxine Triiodothyronine.
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Iodine For Hormone Production
The thyroid gland produces two primary hormones – thyroxine and tri-iodothyronine . The numbers 3 and 4 refer to the number of atoms of iodine in the hormones. Iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormones and humans need about 150 mcg each day. Iodine is found in most foods, especially seafood. The soils in Tasmania and along the Great Dividing Range are low in iodine, so the food from these areas can contain insufficient iodine. Iodised salt is the best way to supplement dietary iodine, but taking too much iodine can also be a problem.Of the two hormones produced, T3 is more active than T4, but is produced in much smaller quantities. T4 has a lesser effect, but most is converted to T3 by enzymes that remove one iodine atom. The greater the amount of T3 and T4 circulating in the blood, the faster the metabolism. Lower amounts of T3 and T4 result in a reduced metabolism.
What Is Thyroid Disorder
In thyroid disorder, your thyroid gland is unable to produce the right amount of hormones. This leads to various complications like raising your heartbeat, unexplained weight loss or weight gain, nervousness, inability to endure cold temperatures, so on and so forth. Broadly speaking, there are two types of thyroid disorders: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Various risk factors, starting from genetic predisposition to health conditions like diabetes can up your risk of these conditions.
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What Causes Thyroid Problems
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.
Diagnostic Tests Of The Thyroid Gland
Doctors first examine the person and feel the person’s neck to see whether the thyroid gland is enlarged.
Depending on the results of the examination, other tests may also be needed. Additional testing may also be necessary in rare cases in which doctors cannot determine whether the problem lies in the thyroid or in the pituitary gland.
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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.
What Is The Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that is normally located in the lower front of the neck. The thyroids job is to make thyroid hormones, which are secreted into the blood and then carried to every tissue in the body. Thyroid hormones help the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should.
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Blood Lymph And Nerve Supply
The thyroid is supplied with arterial blood from the superior thyroid artery, a branch of the external carotid artery, and the inferior thyroid artery, a branch of the thyrocervical trunk, and sometimes by an anatomical variant the thyroid ima artery, which has a variable origin. The superior thyroid artery splits into anterior and posterior branches supplying the thyroid, and the inferior thyroid artery splits into superior and inferior branches. The superior and inferior thyroid arteries join together behind the outer part of the thyroid lobes. The venous blood is drained via superior and middle thyroid veins, which drain to the internal jugular vein, and via the inferior thyroid veins. The inferior thyroid veins originate in a network of veins and drain into the left and right brachiocephalic veins. Both arteries and veins form a plexus between the two layers of the capsule of the thyroid gland.
Causes Of An Overactive Thyroid
There are several reasons why your thyroid can become overactive.
- Graves’ disease a condition where your immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the thyroid
- lumps on the thyroid this extra thyroid tissue can produce thyroid hormones, causing your levels to be too high
- some medicines such as amiodarone, which can be used to treat an irregular heartbeat
Find out more about the causes of an overactive thyroid.
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Where Is My Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is located at the front of the neck just below the Adam’s apple . It is butterfly-shaped and consists of two lobes located either side of the windpipe . A normal thyroid gland is not usually outwardly visible or able to be felt if finger pressure is applied to the neck.
Diagram showing the location of the thyroid gland in the neck. It has two lobes and sits in front of the windpipe . The voice box sits just above the thyroid.
How Long After My Thyroid Is Removed Will My Tiredness Go Away
Typically, you will be given medication to help with your symptoms right after surgery. Your body actually has thyroid hormone still circulating throughout it, even after the thyroid has been removed. The hormones can still be in your body for two to three weeks. Medication will reintroduce new hormones into your body after the thyroid has been removed. If you are still feeling tired after surgery, remember that this can be a normal part of recovering from any type of surgery. It takes time for your body to heal. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are still experiencing fatigue and other symptoms of thyroid disease after surgery.
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Gene And Protein Expression
About 20,000 protein coding genes are expressed in human cells: 70% of these genes are expressed in thyroid cells. Two-hundred fifty of these genes are more specifically expressed in the thyroid, and about 20 genes are highly thyroid specific. In the follicular cells, the proteins synthesized by these genes direct thyroid hormone synthesisthyroglobulin, TPO, and IYD while in the parafollicular c-cells, they direct calcitonin synthesisCALCA, and CALCB.
What Does The Thyroid Do
Your thyroid has an important job to do within your body releasing and controlling thyroid hormones that control metabolism. Metabolism is a process where the food you take into your body is transformed into energy. This energy is used throughout your entire body to keep many of your bodys systems working correctly. Think of your metabolism as a generator. It takes in raw energy and uses it to power something bigger.
The thyroid controls your metabolism with a few specific hormones T4 and T3 . These two hormones are created by the thyroid and they tell the bodys cells how much energy to use. When your thyroid works properly, it will maintain the right amount of hormones to keep your metabolism working at the right rate. As the hormones are used, the thyroid creates replacements.
This is all supervised by something called the pituitary gland. Located in the center of the skull, below your brain, the pituitary gland monitors and controls the amount of thyroid hormones in your bloodstream. When the pituitary gland senses a lack of thyroid hormones or a high level of hormones in your body, it will adjust the amounts with its own hormone. This hormone is called thyroid stimulating hormone . The TSH will be sent to the thyroid and it will tell the thyroid what needs to be done to get the body back to normal.
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Anatomy Of The Thyroid Gland
The thyroid arises from a downward outpouching of the floor of the pharynx, and a persisting remnant of this migration is known as a thyroglossal duct. The gland itself consists of two oblong lobes lying on either side of the trachea and connected by a narrow band of tissue called the isthmus. In normal adults the thyroid gland weighs 10 to 15 grams , though it has the capacity to grow much larger.
The lobes of the gland, as well as the isthmus, contain many small globular sacs called follicles. The follicles are lined with follicular cells and are filled with a fluid known as colloid that contains the prohormone thyroglobulin. The follicular cells contain the enzymes needed to synthesize thyroglobulin, as well as the enzymes needed to release thyroid hormone from thyroglobulin. When thyroid hormones are needed, thyroglobulin is reabsorbed from the colloid in the follicular lumen into the cells, where it is split into its component parts, including the two thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine . The hormones are then released, passing from the cells into the circulation.
Hashimotos Diagnosis And Treatment
Testing the level of TSH is often the first step when screening for any type of thyroid disorder. Your doctor might order a blood test to check for increased levels of TSH as well as low levels of thyroid hormone if youre experiencing some of the above symptoms. Hashimotos thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder, so the blood test would also show abnormal antibodies that might be attacking the thyroid.
Theres no known cure for Hashimotos thyroiditis. Hormone-replacing medication is often used to raise thyroid hormone levels or lower TSH levels. It can also help relieve the symptoms of the disease. Surgery might be necessary to remove part or all of the thyroid gland in rare advanced cases of Hashimotos. The disease is usually detected at an early stage and remains stable for years because it progresses slowly.
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When To See A Gp
See a GP if you have symptoms of an overactive thyroid.
They’ll ask about your symptoms and if they think you might have a thyroid problem, they can arrange for a blood test to check how well your thyroid is working.
If the blood test shows that you have an overactive thyroid, you may be referred for further tests to identify the cause.
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.
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How Is Thyroid Disease Diagnosed
Sometimes, thyroid disease can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are easily confused with those of other conditions. You may experience similar symptoms when you are pregnant or aging and you would when developing a thyroid disease. Fortunately, there are tests that can help determine if your symptoms are being caused by a thyroid issue. These tests include:
- Blood tests.
- Physical exams.
One of the most definitive ways to diagnose a thyroid problem is through blood tests. Thyroid blood tests are used to tell if your thyroid gland is functioning properly by measuring the amount of thyroid hormones in your blood. These tests are done by taking blood from a vein in your arm. Thyroid blood tests are used to see if you have:
The specific blood tests that will be done to test your thyroid can include:
These tests alone arent meant to diagnose any illness but may prompt your healthcare provider to do additional testing to evaluate for a possible thyroid disorder.
Additional blood tests might include:
Talk to your healthcare provider about the ranges for these thyroid blood tests. Your ranges might not be the same as someone elses. Thats often alright. If you have any concerns or worries about your blood test results, talk to your provider.
An ultrasound typically takes about 20 to 30 minutes.
How The Body Adjusts Thyroid Hormones
The body has a complex mechanism for adjusting the level of thyroid hormones. First, the hypothalamus, located just above the pituitary gland in the brain, secretes thyrotropin-releasing hormone, which causes the pituitary gland to produce thyroid-stimulating hormone . Just as the name suggests, TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. The pituitary gland slows or speeds the release of TSH, depending on whether the levels of thyroid hormones circulating in the blood are getting too high or too low.
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