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Thyroid Glands

Out of the many endocrine glands, one gland is very important for keeping your body’s metabolism in check. This gland is the thyroid gland. It has many other functions as well. If it’s overactive or inactive can have many interesting effects on the body.

 

The thyroid gland is found in the front of the neck.

An image of the thyroid gland

 

Where is it?

The thyroid lies in the lower part of your neck, right below where the Adam’s apple might be. It wraps around your windpipe and looks like a butterfly. The thyroid consists of two lobes and a middle part called an isthmus. 
 

Function and Its Associated Hormones

The anterior pituitary gland produces thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to activate the thyroid. The thyroid gland produces and stores hormones made from iodine. The most important of these are T3 and T4 (also called thyroxine). They help control heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and growth. They are particularly important for brain development in babies and young kids.

An illustration of the chemical structure of Thyroxine.

An image of the chemical structure of thyroxine

The thyroid also makes a hormone called calcitonin. This regulates the amount of calcium in your body. 
 

Hyperthyroidism

When a person’s thyroid is too active, we say that person has hyperthyroidism. About 70% of the time, it’s caused by an illness called Graves’ disease. This results in higher metabolic rates, higher heart rates, and increased intestinal activity. A person could have symptoms such as weight loss, feeling too hot, and anxiety. 
 

Hypothyroidism

When a person’s thyroid is not active enough, we say that they have hypothyroidism. This is much more common than the thyroid being too active. It’s commonly caused by autoimmune diseases. In these diseases, your body’s immune system attacks your own cells.
 
This can also cause a decrease in your body’s metabolic rate. This can show up in symptoms like tiredness, a low heart rate, weight gain, and a goiter. A goiter is when your thyroid swells and gets bigger. Other symptoms include depression, poor memory, and loss of appetite.

Other Great Resources

Thyroid Gland, Hormones and Thyroid Problems, Animation (Alila Medical Media): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDGmsR2ZILE

Thyroid Gland Healthhttp://www.yourhormones.info/glands/thyroid-gland/

More on Thyroid Disorders: https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/thyroid.html

Written by: Sylvia Choo