Thyroid Disorders – An Overview

Thyroid disorders

From sudden weight gain, fatigue, and hair loss, thyroid disorders can lead to cardiovascular diseases, eye problems, osteoporosis, and a host of other complications. Coupled with conditions like diabetes, thyroid disease is certainly a cause for concern.

What is Thyroid Gland?

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located in the neck, below the Adam’s apple. Thyroid glands produce hormones including calcitonin, T3, and T4. These hormones are regulated by TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone).

Hormones secreted by the thyroid gland are responsible for various body functions including metabolism, heartbeat, growth rate among young children, sleep, sexual function, and even thought patterns.

Thyroid glands also consist four glands called parathyroid glands that are present behind thyroid glands. However, these are not related to thyroid glands. These glands secrete parathyroid hormone (PTH) that is responsible for regulating calcium in the body.

Regulation of calcium by parathyroid hormone is important as calcium in the body is vital for bone development, electrical energy for muscles, and nervous system.

When the calcium level in blood goes down, parathyroid hormone is released. This prompts release of calcium from the bones into bloodstream. When calcium levels are optimum in the blood, the release of hormones is stopped. Any disorder of the parathyroid gland leads to conditions like osteoporosis.

Functions of thyroid gland

The thyroid gland is vital for many functions of the body. It plays a key role in metabolism and heart rate. It regulates important body function by constantly releasing hormones into the bloodstream.

Thyroid Hormones:

  • T3 – Triiodothyronine
  • T4- Thyroxine
  • Calcitonin

Key functions of thyroid hormones include:

  • Increasing basal metabolic rate
  • Increasing body temperature, pulse, & heartbeat
  • Breathing regulation
  • Activation of nervous system
  • Break down of nutrients
  • Maintaining body weight
  • Cholesterol level regulation
  • Muscle strength
  • Menstrual cycles

How does thyroid gland work?

Both T3 and T4 produced by thyroid glands are made with the help of iodine in foods consumed. Release of thyroid hormones into the bloodstream is maintained by an intricate communication between other endocrine glands.

Release of T3 and T4 is regulated by thyroid-regulating hormone (TRH). TRH is released in the hypothalamus of the brain. Thyroid-regulating hormone triggers the pituitary gland to release another hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

As the levels of T3 and T4 reduce in the bloodstream, the pituitary hormone releases TSH. The released TSH communicates with thyroid glands to release T3 and T4 hormones. When the levels of T3 and T4 increase, the pituitary gland reduces release of TSH leading to reduced production of both T3 and T4.

In healthy people, of the total thyroid hormone released, T3 should be approximately 20% and T4 80%. Any disruption in this system leads to a dysfunction of the thyroid glands leading to thyroid disorders.

Common Thyroid Disorders

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Thyroid Storm
  • Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
  • Graves’ disease
  • Thyroid Cancer
  • Goiters
  • Endemic goiters
  • Thyroiditis
  • Thyroid nodules
  • Postpartum thyroiditis
  • Congenital thyroiditis
  • Silent thyroiditis
  • Hypoparathyroidism
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Thyroid hormone resistance
  • Acute infectious thyroiditis
  • Thyrotoxic periodic paralysis