The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland, located in the throat near the trachea.
This gland is extremely important, as it controls the production and release of hormones. In addition to these roles, the thyroid is also responsible for regulating body weight, temperature, the absorption of iron, and the generation of energy. When the thyroid isn’t working properly, a patient may struggle with weight issues, fatigue, hair loss, depression, swollen/cold hands and feet, and memory problems.
Understanding Your Thyroid
Why Does It Matter?
The thyroid produces a hormone that regulates the body’s metabolism, the body’s primary cell and energy production processes. When the thyroid fails to function properly, it can have serious consequences for the entire body. Left untreated, thyroid disorders can balloon into severe, even deadly outcomes, affecting both the heart and lungs.
How Do Thyroid Disorders Occur?
Thyroid disorders are very complex and complicated, however most fall under two categories. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is under-working. Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, occurs when the thyroid is over-working.
It’s also possible to have a break down in the “feedback loop” connecting the thyroid and the brain. The pituitary gland, a hormone-producing gland in the brain, sends thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to the thyroid to signal how much thyroid hormone to produce. In rare cases, the pituitary gland can produce too much TSH.
Other complications can emerge when the liver fails to convert T4 into T3 (the two primary thyroid hormones). When this occurs, thyroid symptoms will often emerge, and can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. Usually physicians will only test for TSH, and in certain instances, T4. Most physicians will overlook T3 levels, assuming the liver is functioning properly. A comprehensive T3 serum test can reveal these complications.
Distinguishing Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism
Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism share one thing in common – both affect your metabolism. Beyond that, the symptoms are often completely different and rarely coincide.
If you struggle with hyperthyroidism, your metabolism shifts into overdrive. Your heart rate may accelerate; you may experience feelings of anxiousness and tremors in the hands. Bowel movements may be looser and increase in frequency. You may lose weight without changing your diet; sometimes to the point of ill health.
Patients who suffer from hypothyroidism will feel their metabolism hit rock bottom. You may feel exhausted; even depressed. Your heart rate may slow. Often, hair and skin dry out and facial expressions can become dull. You may experience constipation along with fluid retention, puffiness, swelling, etc.