Do you know what controls your metabolism? Most people have no idea that
the butterfly-shaped gland in the middle of the lower neck controls the
body’s metabolism, the amount of energy your body burns to maintain
“This gland produces hormones triodothyronine(T3) and thyroxine(T4),
which tell the body how much energy to use,” says Brian Kauth, M.D. of
Catawba Valley Family Medicine – Northeast Hickory. “A properly functioning thyroid will maintain the right amount
of hormones needed to keep the body’s metabolism or energy consumption
functioning at a normal rate. The pituitary gland, located at the base
of the brain, oversees the thyroid gland’s production of hormones.
When the pituitary gland senses either a deficiency of thyroid hormones
or an excess of thyroid hormones, it will adjust its own hormone thyroid-stimulating
hormone (TSH). TSH will then instruct the thyroid on what to do next.”
Thyroid disease refers to a ‘sick’ thyroid gland, a gland that
can no longer maintain the body’s metabolism. There are two types
of sick glands—one that produces too much hormone (hyperthyroidism)
and one that produces too little hormone (hypothyroidism)—causing
a disruption in the body’s metabolism. There are several reasons
why a gland may become ill. Some, but not all, risk factors include:
- 60 years of age or older
- Exposure to radiation in the neck
- Prior thyroid surgery
- Recent pregnancy
- Family history of thyroid disease or autoimmune disease
- Personal history of autoimmune disease
- Consuming either inadequate or excessive amounts of iodine
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include: fatigue, changes in menstrual period,
weight gain, dry, coarse skin and hair, intolerance to cold, and forgetfulness.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include: irritability/nervousness, weight
loss, bowel changes, vision problems, sleep disturbances, intolerance
to heat and changes in menstrual periods.
Treatment of hypothyroidism, includes prescription of medication to replace
the missing thyroid hormone in the body. Treatment options for hyperthyroidism
include drug therapy to decrease thyroid hormone levels, radioactive iodine
treatment that destroys the overactive thyroid gland, or thyroid surgery
to remove a portion of or the entire gland. “Each treatment option
has risks and benefits; together you and your physician can decide which
treatment option is best for you,” says Dr. Kauth.
Make sure you schedule a regular physical exam. Tell your doctor about
any symptoms you have to allow for early diagnosis. Thyroid diseases are
life-long conditions. With careful management, people with thyroid disease
can live healthy, normal lives.