Thyroid gland is very essential for efficient metabolic activity. The health of thyroid gland determines overall health. If the functioning of thyroid gland is affected, the body will confront several problems. Each and everyone should know about the functioning of thyroid gland. Any irregularity in production of thyroid hormones, can be detected through some symptoms. Once you are aware of the importance of this gland, you can protect it and remain healthy.
Location in the body
Thyroid gland that is just two inches in size, is located in the front of the throat. Resembling a butterfly, it is situated exactly below the larynx (voice box). Thyroid gland begins functioning in the foetus, from the 14th week onwards. Just as you require oxygen to live, thyroid gland requires iodine. In the foetus, it first develops at the back of the tongue. As it grows, it reaches below the voice box. By the time the infant is born, it reaches the front portion of the throat. In rare cases, it stops behind the tongue or in the upper portion of the throat. In very rare cases, it goes below to the chest region.
Thyroid gland functions with the help of iodine that you consume via salt and other food items. Iodine is essential for its functioning. It absorbs iodine from food and transforms it in to thyroid hormones: Thyroxine (T4), and Triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid cells in the body produce T4 and T3 hormones, with the help of iodine and an amino acid called tyrosine. T4 and T3 reach all body cells, through blood circulation and monitor the bodily functions. These are very essential to transform calories into energy. T3 and T4 monitor protein, fat and carbohydrate levels. How much energy a cell absorbs, depends on these hormones.
Normally thyroid gland produces 80 per cent T4 and 20 per cent T3. The latter is four times more potent than the former hormone. Thyroid glands help in controlling the functioning of the Pituitary Gland, which is in the shape of a peanut and is located in the brain. When the levels of T3 and T4 fall, Pituitary Gland helps in stimulating the Thyroid Gland, by producing TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). With this, Thyroid Gland produces more hormones. TSH boosts the production of T3 and T4. Once Thyroid Gland increases the production of T3 and T4, Pituitary Gland reduces the production of TSH. Functioning of Pituitary Gland is controlled by Hypothalamus in the brain. It produces Thyrotrophic-Releasing Hormone (TRH), that helps the Pituitary Gland to produce TSH. Pituitary Gland produces TSH with the help of TRH. If Pituitary Gland is damaged, it affects Thyroid Gland.
Thyroid Glands controls breathing, pulse rate, weight, strength in muscles, menstruation, body temperature, cholesterol (body fat) levels and functioning of central nervous system. T3 and T4 hormones reach every cell in the body through the blood. As such they monitor the rate of metabolic activity. For example, the rate of pulse and the rate at which food is digested, depends on T3 and T4 hormones. If the level of these hormones decreases, pulse also drops. Many problems like constipation and weight loss will occur. They decide the amount of calories to be burnt. It is essential to know that increase or loss of weight depends on the burning of calories. At least one person in 10 in India suffer from Thyroid problems.
T3, T4 levels increase- Hyperthyroidism
Anxiety, irritability, moodiness, excessive sweating, increased pulse rate (palpitation), sensitivity to excessive heat, shivering of hands, weight loss, hair loss, irregularity in menstruation or shortening of menstrual cycles, are a result of deficiency of thyroid. There is a close relationship with thyroid and cardio vascular system. That is why any disturbance in the production of thyroid hormones, affects the heart. Doctors can prescribe medicines to cure hyperthyroidism and stop excess production of thyroid hormones. In some cases of Thyroid or throat cancer, it becomes necessary to remove Thyroid Gland. It can be removed partially or completely through surgery.
Deficiency of T3, T4 (Hypothyroidism)
Sleep problems, fatigue, lack of concentration, dry hair or skin, stress, susceptibility to cold weather, frequent menstruation and excessive discharge and aches in calf muscles occur due to increase in T3 and T4 levels, or Hypothyrodism. Also there will be hair loss, reduced memory and pulse rate, constipation etc. problems. Doctors might prescribe synthetic drugs with thyroxine hormone. These drugs should be used throughout your life. Often, more women are affected than men. Women over 60 years of age are more likely to be affected. It might occur due to iodine deficiency or due to hashimoto's thyroiditis. In this, anti-bodies that usually fight bacteria, mistake Thyroid Gland as a foreign body and attack it, leading to dysfunction.
Care of pregnant women
The foetus gets its iodine supply from the mother. If the infant's brain has to grow normally, thyroid hormones are essential. That is why pregnant women should see that their intake of iodine is sufficient. This will ensure that the infant does not suffer from thyroid problems. Just thyroid hormone is key to many kinds of growth. Deficiency in thyroid hormones in the mother, will lead to hypothyrodism in the child, making him face IQ and other mental health problems, according to several studies. That is why pregnant women should consume adequate iodine, for themselves as well as for the growing child. TSH levels in the child increases within 30 minutes of birth. Yet the thyroid hormone in the mother protects them. But one in 4,000 children suffer from congenital hypothyrodism. However, this occurs because of under developed thyroid gland. With this, thyroid hormones are not produced. It could also occur due to deficiency of iodine. This can be cured with treatment. If the condition is not diagnosed and treated, mental health of the child will be affected due to hypothyrodism. That is why all newborns are tested for TSH, as rule these days.
Effects in youth
Maturity in the young will be delayed due to thyroid problems. As you grow several hormonal changes take place in the body. For example, women will start menstruating at a certain age. Nature prepares them for giving birth. Several changes occur in the body accordingly. Thyroid is essential for all these processes. If it is deficient, there will be delay in menstruation. Or it will be weak and delayed. This affects the later growth and competence of the individual. Periods will be irregular, with heavy discharge.
Problems in the old age
Thyroid problems are more pronounced in aged people. Because of age, irregularity will set in production of hormones. This might occur even due to ill-effects of medicines, heart, gastrointestinal and nerves related problems. However, it is difficult to diagnose thyroid-related issues in the aged. For these kind of problems, blood tests should be done and treatment should be taken to increase lifespan.