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The Thyroid Gland Function and Common Disorders

by | Oct 9, 2023

Explore the intricate role of the thyroid gland, its function, risk factors, warning signs, and the prevalent disorders affecting the thyroid. Learn how this small but powerful gland can impact your overall health.

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Introduction of the Thyroid Gland

Our body is a complex and intricate system, with each part vital in maintaining our overall health. The endocrine system, in particular, produces and regulates hormones that control various bodily functions. This system comprises glands that produce hormones and release them into our bloodstream to be circulated throughout our body.

The thyroid gland is one of the most essential glands in the endocrine system. It is a butterfly shaped gland in the neck just below the voice box. In this article, we will explore the anatomy and function of the thyroid gland and common disorders that can affect it.

Anatomy of the Thyroid Gland

Before delving into its function, it is vital to understand the physical structure of the thyroid gland. Located in the front of our neck, just below our Adam’s apple, this butterfly-shaped gland is part of the endocrine system. It comprises two lobes on each side of the windpipe, connected by a thin strip of tissue called the isthmus.

The thyroid gland’s shape and position are not constant and may vary slightly from person to person. However, it typically weighs around 25 grams and is roughly two inches wide. The thyroid gland is also rich in blood vessels, making it highly vascular. This allows for the efficient transport of hormones throughout our body.

 

The Endocrine System

To fully understand the function of the thyroid gland, it is essential to have a basic understanding of the endocrine system. The endocrine system regulates bodily functions such as metabolism, growth, and reproduction. It consists of several glands and organs, including the Thyroid, Hypothalamus, Ovaries, Testes, Pineal Gland, Pituitary Gland, Adrenal Glands, and Pancreas.

The pituitary gland, located at the base of our brain, acts as the “master gland” and controls the functions of other endocrine glands, including the thyroid gland. It secretes a hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which stimulates the thyroid gland to produce and release two crucial hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).

The Function of the Thyroid Gland

The thyroid gland’s primary function is to produce and release hormones crucial in regulating our metabolism, energy levels, and body temperature. These hormones also affect the functioning of various organs, including the heart, brain, liver, and skin.

T3 and T4 control how fast cells use oxygen and energy from food. They also help regulate protein synthesis and enzyme production in various bodily processes. In short, the hormones produced by the thyroid gland are essential for our body’s normal functioning.

In addition, there are cells in the thyroid gland called C cells that produce a calcitonin hormone. This hormone helps regulate calcium and phosphate levels in our blood and plays a role in bone health.

Thyroid nodules are abnormal lumps (growths) within the thyroid gland. This is a very common condition seen in approximately 30% of adults. These are more commonly seen in females. Learn more about thyroid nodule treatments in Singapore at Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic.

Risk Factors for Developing a Thyroid Condition

Anyone can develop a thyroid condition, young or old. However, certain risk factors may increase your likelihood of developing a thyroid disorder. These include:

  • Family history of thyroid disorders
  • Autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Previous radiation therapy to the neck or head
  • Iodine deficiency
  • Age (older adults are more at risk)
  • Pregnancy or recent childbirth
  • Life stressors such as illness, surgery, or emotional trauma
  • Medication use, such as lithium or amiodarone

Thyroid disorders can affect both men and women, but certain thyroid conditions are more common in women. For example, conditions like hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are more frequently diagnosed in women. Additionally, thyroid problems can sometimes become more apparent during pregnancy or menopause, further contributing to the perception that they primarily affect women. It is essential to be aware of these risk factors and discuss them with your thyroid doctor if you have concerns about your thyroid health.

 

The Relationship Between the Thyroid Gland and Hormone

As mentioned earlier, the thyroid gland produces hormones that play a crucial role in our body’s functioning. However, these hormones are also closely related to other hormones produced by different glands.

For example, cortisol and estrogen can affect the production of T3 and T4. High estrogen levels can increase T4 production, while high cortisol levels can decrease it. Similarly, an excess or deficiency of T3 and T4 can impact the production of other hormones, leading to various hormonal imbalances.

In addition, the thyroid gland also works in tandem with our adrenal glands, which produce hormones to help us cope with stress. An overactive or underactive thyroid gland can affect the functioning of these glands and lead to further health complications.

Early Warning Signs of Thyroid Problems

Thyroid disorders can manifest in various ways, making it difficult to detect them early on. However, knowing the signs and symptoms can help you seek medical attention promptly.

Some common warning signs and symptoms of thyroid problems include:

  • Unexplained weight changes
  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Difficulty sleeping or feeling fatigued
  • Muscle weakness or tremors
  • Mood changes, anxiety, or depression
  • Hair loss or dry skin
  • Frequent bowel movements or constipation
  • Increased or decreased heart rate

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is essential to consult a medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Thyroid Nodule Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) Treatment

Radiofrequency ablation aims to give patients a non-surgical option for treating thyroid nodules. This procedure is a minimally invasive option that a surgeon can perform, should the preliminary tests determine that you would benefit from it.

The Advantages of RFA of Thyroid Nodules

The major advantages of the technique are as below.

  1. It is done as day surgery procedure under light sedation.
  2. It takes about 45 minutes to one hour to complete the entire procedure.
  3. Patients are discharged the same day.
  4. Normal thyroid tissue adjacent to the nodule is preserved.
  5. It does not affect thyroid function.
  6. Multiple nodules can be treated at same time.
  7. The treated nodules do not regrow again.
  8. No surgical scar with needle mark on the skin.
  9. Quick recovery and back to full activity and normal lifestyle.
  10. The technique is suitable to treat even large thyroid nodules.

Find out how thyroid nodule Radiofrequency Ablation can help you in a minimally invasive way on our blog post, “Thyroid Nodule Radiofrequency Ablation Treatment: Diagnosis,  Management, and Recovery.”

Conditions and Disorders Affecting the Thyroid

Several conditions and disorders can affect the thyroid gland, ranging from minor to severe. We can broadly categorize them as follows:

Cardiovascular

Thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can affect our cardiovascular health. Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, can lead to high cholesterol levels, increased risk of heart disease, and fluid buildup around the heart. On the other hand, hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, can cause a rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and increased risk of irregular heart rhythms.

Nervous

Thyroid hormones play a crucial role in brain development and function. Therefore, any abnormalities in the production of these hormones can lead to various neurological problems. For example, hypothyroidism has been linked to depression, anxiety, and memory problems. In contrast, hyperthyroidism can lead to irritability, nervousness, and difficulty concentrating. In severe cases, an overactive thyroid gland can cause a thyroid storm, a life-threatening medical emergency.

Digestive

An enlarged thyroid gland (goiter) can press against the esophagus and cause difficulty swallowing. Moreover, thyroid disorders can also affect the functioning of our digestive system, leading to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation. When left untreated, these digestive issues can significantly impact our overall health and quality of life.

Reproductive

Thyroid disorders can also affect our reproductive health. An underactive or overactive thyroid gland can cause menstrual irregularities, difficulty getting pregnant, or pregnancy complications in women. Men may experience decreased libido or erectile dysfunction due to thyroid problems.

Find the Right Doctor

From family and internal medicine to specialist, Dr. Manish Taneja is the best in the field.

As a vascular and interventional radiology specialist, Dr Manish Taneja looks after peripheral vascular disease, aneurysms, dialysis interventions, venous diseases like deep vein thrombosis, and varicose veins/spider veins/reticular veins. He is also competent in performing newer endovascular procedures such as uterine artery embolization, prostate artery embolization, genicular artery embolization, and erectile dysfunction interventions.

Dr. Manish Taneja also has extensive experience in performing all vascular interventions, non-vascular interventions and interventional oncology procedures.

In conclusion, the thyroid gland may be a small organ, but it is crucial to our overall health and well-being. It is essential to be aware of the function of the thyroid gland, risk factors for developing a thyroid condition, and early warning signs of problems.

At Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic in Singapore, we understand the importance of proper diagnosis and treatment for thyroid disorders. If you are experiencing symptoms or have concerns about your thyroid health, fill in and submit your contact information and inquiry details on our Contact Us page.

Read More About Vascular Treatments on Our Blog

To dive deeper into the types of vascular treatments such as thyroid nodule radiofrequency ablation, head over to our clinic’s blog.  Read our recommended vascular treatments related blog posts to stay informed.

Thyroid Nodule Resources

How to Keep Thyroid Healthy for Optimal Well-Being

As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid hormones must be perfectly balanced at all times for the body to function normally.

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Caring For Your Thyroid Health

Have you ever experienced difficulty swallowing or breathing? You may have risk factors including a family history of thyroid nodules or iodine deficiency. Thyroid nodules are abnormal lumps (growths) within the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland located below your voice box. Even if most thyroid nodules are benign, 10-15% of nodules are cancerous. Sometimes overgrowth of normal thyroid tissue can lead to hyperthyroidism. In other cases, multiple nodules can form in the thyroid called multinodular goiter. Fluid filled thyroid cysts can be one type of thyroid nodule within the thyroid. More complex nodules may lead to thyroid cancers.

Depending on the root cause and type of nodule you have, patients can monitor with regular ultrasound or even have a thyroid fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAC) if required. Surgery to remove partial or whole thyroid gland can be done but thanks to minimally invasive treatments such as Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA), this procedure can treat noncancerous and cancerous thyroid lumps.

Types of Thyroid Nodules and Cancer

Watch our video guide and find out more on our blog post, “Types of Thyroid Nodules and Cancer” with the types, causes, evaluation, biopsy, treatment options, and when to see a thyroid specialist. Find answers to questions on whether thyroid nodules are cancerous or not.

Arrange Your Appointment

Consult Vascular Specialist, Dr. Manish Taneja

Other Health Conditions

The Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic is your “go-to” facility for various conditions and pain management. To arrange an appointment with Dr. Manish Taneja, our thyroid nodule specialist, contact us. You can also call us at (+65) 6904 8084 for a consultation.