The thyroid gland belongs to the endocrine system - a family of glands that manufacture hormones responsible in the regulation of physiological functions in the body such as energy consumption, sweating, and heart rate. It is found in the lower part of your neck, right in the middle of it. It is a bow tie-shaped gland wrapped around the front half of your windpipe, just below the voice box and above the collarbone. The thyroid has two halves or lobes, both joined by a small tissue bar called the “isthmus.”
The thyroid gland is responsible for producing the hormone “thyroxine,” which controls the rate of cell oxidation and is important in regulating the body’s metabolism.
What happens when the levels of thyroxine released are not normal? Thyroid diseases develop. Mostly affecting women, thyroid diseases cause the body to utilize energy either faster or slower than normal.
An overly active thyroid gland makes more thyroid hormones than needed. This condition is called “hyperthyroidism.” People with hyperthyroidism experience weight loss despite attempts to increase calorie intake. They also experience higher heart rate even at rest and oversensitivity to heat. Examples of thyroid diseases that manifest hyperthyroidism include Graves’ disease, toxic nodular goiter, and toxic adenoma.
An underactive thyroid gland is a far more common disease experienced by millions of people today. This condition is called “hypothyroidism.” If you have this condition, you gain weight despite lowering your calorie intake and increasing your activity levels. You also get easily tired and become sensitive to lower temperatures. An example of a thyroid disease that manifests hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (though it can have episodes of hyperthyroidism).
Thyroid enlargement often called a “goiter,” can manifest in both over- and under-activity of the thyroid gland. It can also be caused by iodine deficiency.