What is the Thyroid?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

The thyroid is a large endocrine gland located in the neck. For men, the gland is located just below the area known as the Adam’s apple. While most people do not think much about the function of the thyroid, this gland can have a profound impact on both the physical and emotional well being of the individual.

The thyroid is a gland located in the neck.
The thyroid is a gland located in the neck.

In design, this gland is essentially in the form of a “u.” Working in conjunction with the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, the thyroid helps to control a number of body functions that are extremely important, such as body metabolism, breathing and the production of several hormones that regulate various body systems.

Weight gain may be a symptom of hypothyroidism.
Weight gain may be a symptom of hypothyroidism.

For the most part, little attention is given to this gland until it begins to malfunction. The two most common types of problems are known as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. In both cases, the normal production of the various hormones is thrown out of balance. In turn, the overproduction or underproduction of those hormones to have a negative impact on the rest of the body.

Women are more likely than men to develop thyroid problems.
Women are more likely than men to develop thyroid problems.

Hypothyroidism, which is a lack of sufficient hormone production, can have severe consequences. In children, the underactive production can lead to stunted growth as well as create learning disabilities and upset the emotional balance. For adults who experience hypothyroidism, they may become easily agitated, nervous, anxious and experience other issues ranging from depression to extreme mood swings.

In many cases, little attention is given to the thyroid until the gland begins to malfunction.
In many cases, little attention is given to the thyroid until the gland begins to malfunction.

When hyperthyroidism is present, the overactive production of thyroid hormones can also create undesirable effects. As with too little hormone production, a person suffering with this condition may also feel anxious, experience a rapid change of emotions, and in general feel constantly keyed up. It is not unusual for a goiter to develop when excess amounts of hormone are produced.

Thyroid functioning affects the body's metabolism.
Thyroid functioning affects the body's metabolism.

Fortunately, there are many different types of medicine that can help in treating various issues associated with this endocrine gland. In some cases, the medicines help to regulate the function of the gland so that hormone production is returned to reasonable limits. In situations where surgery may have been necessary, such as with the presence of thyroid cancer, the medication may be aimed at providing the individual with hormones that any remaining section of the gland is no longer able to produce.

The thyroid gland functions in cooperation with the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland.
The thyroid gland functions in cooperation with the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland.

It is important to note that physicians tend to try other available treatments before restarting to removing all or part of the thyroid. However, once the gland is no longer present, the individual will need to take medication to produce the same hormones and mimic the functions of the thyroid for the remainder of his or her life.

Located in the front of the neck, the thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, and the body's metabolism.
Located in the front of the neck, the thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, and the body's metabolism.
Children suffering from hyperthyroidism may experience muscular weakness and anxiety.
Children suffering from hyperthyroidism may experience muscular weakness and anxiety.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments

calabama71

@carrotisland: There are several signs and/or symptoms of thyroid trouble. If you experience sudden weight loss, tremors, sweating, increased appetite, palpitations, fatigue, menstrual problems, or swelling at the base of your neck, it could be a sign of hyperthyroidism.

There is also what is called hypothyroidism. Several of the symptoms are the same as hyperthyroidism such as fatigue, tremors, and menstrual problems. However, with hypothyroidism, weight gain, hair loss, low temperature, depression, and constipation are issues.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor.

CarrotIsland

Are there signs or symptoms that indicate thyroid problems?

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