What is thyroid?
The thyroid gland, a small butterfly shaped gland in the front of your neck, makes thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones travel from the thyroid gland through the blood to all parts of the body, where they do their work
Why are thyroid hormones important?
Thyroid hormones help all your organs work well. They control how your body uses food for energy. Thyroid hormones affect your metabolism rate, which means how fast or slow your brain, heart, muscles, liver, and other parts of your body work.
How does the thyroid work?
Your thyroid gland is controlled by the pituitary gland, a pea-sized gland located at the base of your brain. The pituitary gland keeps checking the amount of thyroid hormone in your blood. Then it tells your thyroid to make more or less hormone so there's always the right amount.
Having thyroid hormone levels that are low (underactive thyroid gland)
Sometimes the thyroid gland doesn't make enough thyroid hormone, which is called hypothyroidism. When you don't have enough thyroid hormone, parts of your body work too slowly.
Symptoms of underactive thyroid include
- Feeling tired
- Feeling cold even when other people are comfortable or even warm
- Having a slow heart rate and dry skin
- Being constipated
- Gaining weight even though you're not eating more or exercising less than usual
- In children, growing very slowly
Having thyroid hormone levels that are high (overactive thyroid gland)
Sometimes the thyroid gland makes too much thyroid hormone, which is called hyperthyroidism.
Symptoms of overactive thyroid gland include
- Feeling nervous and irritable
- Having trouble concentrating
- Feeling too warm even when other people don't feel warm
- Having a fast heart rate and diarrhea
- Having trouble sleeping
- Losing weight without trying
Having a lump in thyroid gland
You can have a lump or swelling in your thyroid gland, called a nodule. Nodules may have no effect on how the gland works, or can lead to too much thyroid hormone. Most nodules are benign (not cancer), but some can be cancerous.
Having an enlarged thyroid gland
When your thyroid is enlarged (called a goiter), it can produce too much, not enough, or just the right amount of thyroid hormone. Your doctor will try to find out why your thyroid is enlarged.
Can I live without my thyroid?
Yes. If your doctor needs to remove your thyroid, you can stay healthy by taking a thyroid hormone pill every day.
Should pregnant women be screened for hypothyroidism?
Pregnant women at high risk of thyroid problems should have a thyroid function test even if they do not have symptoms of an underactive thyroid.
Precautions to be taken by mother with hypothyroidism:
Before pregnancy- It is important that thyroid hormone levels are normal both before and during pregnancy. If you are already receiving medicine to treat hypothyroidism, you should have your thyroid hormone levels checked before you try to conceive. If your TSH levels are too high, you may need an increase in your dose. You should delay pregnancy until your disease is well controlled.
During pregnancy- Once a hypothyroid woman becomes pregnant, the levothyroxine dose often must increase. Contact your doctor soon after you know you are pregnant, so you can get a thyroid function blood test and discuss your treatment plan. After pregnancy- After delivery, most hypothyroid women need to decrease the levothyroxine dose they received during pregnancy.