What Does Your Thyroid Do?

What Does Your Thyroid Do?

What Does Your Thyroid Do?

Everyone is born with a thyroid. It’s the “butterfly-shaped” gland in the lower front part of your neck. It sits right below the Adam’s Apple.

The thyroid gland makes two hormones – T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). In turn, the brain’s pituitary gland releases them into the bloodstream. Carried to every tissue in the body, these hormones help with many functions. They help the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart and other organs working properly.

Sometimes, the thyroid doesn’t function as it should. When it doesn’t make enough hormones, the condition is called hypothyroidismleaving site icon

What Causes the Disease?

Inflammation (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) leaving site icon is one of the most common reasons. But problems can also be triggered by radiation to the neck, some medications, surgical removal of the gland, a head injury, pregnancy and low levels of iodine in the diet.

What Are the Symptoms?

Women have a higher risk for the disease than men. They may experience changes in their menstrual cycles. Other symptoms leaving site icon include weight gain, moodiness, fatigue, hair loss, constipation, feeling cold, a slow heart rate and swelling in the neck.

How Is Hypothyroidism Treated?

A prescription supplement restores T3 and T4 hormones to their correct levels so the body can function properly.

What is Hyperthyroidism?

Sometimes, the thyroid makes too much T3 and T4 hormones. People who suffer from this form of the disease may experience weight loss, hand tremors, dry skin, a rapid heartbeat, mood swings and anxiety.

It can be caused by Graves’ Disease, lumps or nodules on the thyroid and pregnancy. Hyperthyroidism is treated with medications that stop the gland from making too much T3 and T4. Beta blockers may also be prescribed to slow hormone production.

If you think you may have a thyroid problem, talk with your doctor. Being proactive about your health can make a big difference in your quality of life.

Sources: Hypothyroidismleaving site icon American Thyroid Association, 2022; Hashimoto’s Diseaseleaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2022; Thyroiditisleaving site icon WebMD, 2020; Hypothyroidismleaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2020; Hyperthyroidismleaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2020

Originally published 1/7/2016; Revised 2021, 2023