What is thyroid? Know how it works and when it needs attention

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Do you know what thyroid is and what is its function within the human body? As much as you’ve never quite understood the role of this gland in performing basic functions in our body, it’s likely that you’ve already come across people with problems or some dysfunction in it.

Therefore, taking advantage of International Thyroid Day and the International Awareness Week around this gland, it is worth understanding better what the role of the thyroid is, what are the most common problems that can affect it and the signs that such alterations can cause in the body. body. Good reading!

What is the thyroid and what is its function in the body?

The thyroid is a gland located high up in the neck, under the skin and near the so-called Adam’s apple — which, in men, forms a small raised cartilage. In general, it usually has a maximum of 5 centimeters and two lobes, making its shape resemble a butterfly. Its weight does not usually exceed 25 grams.

Compared to other organs and structures in the body, the thyroid is actually quite small. But this does not reflect its importance for the proper functioning of the body.

Among the organs affected by it are:

  • heart;
  • rins;
  • brain;
  • liver.

In addition, from the secretion of a series of hormones (the most important are called T3 and T4), the thyroid stimulates the work of practically all tissues in the body for the production of proteins, increasing the consumption of oxygen in a series of metabolic processes.

In addition, its performance influences the development of the organism from childhood, interferes with mood, regulates the menstrual cycle in women of childbearing age and affects fertility as a whole, impacting the reproduction capacity of men and women.

In view of all these effects of thyroid action on the body, it is natural that the body has a series of complex mechanisms to regulate the level of hormones produced and released by it.

In summary, this occurs from the release of TRH (thyrotropin-releasing hormone), which induces TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), indicating to the gland that it must produce the appropriate hormones.

What are the most common thyroid problems?

In general, the main symptoms of the thyroid occur due to the excess production of hormones (hyperthyroidism) or the deficit in the release of these substances (called hypothyroidism). Be that as it may, both conditions indicate a dysfunction in the gland’s performance, with effects on the entire body.

From the moment the body begins to suffer from hypothyroidism, the tendency is for the body’s metabolism to slow down, to the point where natural growth can be compromised. In parallel, there may be weight gain, high cholesterol levels and even depressive symptoms.

In the opposite direction, in hyperthyroidism, the organism speeds up and the metabolism causes several functions to happen faster than normal. People with this problem can suffer from increased restlessness, while having difficulty concentrating – or even feeling more tired.

In both cases, it is not uncommon for the person to experience an increase in thyroid volume, the so-called goiter. It is noticeable through a physical examination (including by the patient himself).

In addition, the thyroid may present nodules, which are generally benign. However, in a smaller slice, they can indicate the presence of cancer, which deserves a proper investigation conducted by the doctor.

In any case, thyroid problems can affect people at all stages of life and of any gender. Autoimmune disorders, inflammation, radiation exposure, and deficiencies in certain nutrients (such as iodine) are the most common causes of changes in the function of this gland.

What symptoms can they cause?

Thyroid changes do not always generate clear symptoms. They are often non-specific (ie they can also be explained by other health conditions).

Anyway, among the most common signs of hyperthyroidism are:

Those suffering from hypothyroidism, in turn, may experience symptoms such as:

  • depression;
  • slower heartbeat;
  • constipation;
  • changes in the menstrual cycle;
  • memory problems;
  • excessive tiredness and sleep;
  • dry skin and hair loss;
  • weight gain;
  • elevation in cholesterol levels.

When to seek help and how is this type of problem treated?

The endocrinologist is responsible for diagnosing and treating thyroid problems. He should be looked for whenever changes in the body have, as suspected, a hormonal dysfunction.

In addition, he can be sought in the face of any perception of a physical change in the gland, as well as for routine examinations – in particular, from the age of 40 or in those who have a family history of this type of problem.

In general, the tests most used to identify thyroid problems are those capable of measuring the amount of hormones produced by the gland and the THS receptor. In addition, the doctor may request thyroid ultrasounds, especially when a nodule appears. As a last resort, it may be necessary to remove a small fragment for biopsy, to confirm or not a possible cancer in the region.

Once the diagnosis of hyper- or hypothyroidism is confirmed, treatments involve hormone replacement, iodine supplementation and, in some cases, surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid.

In any case, an adequate diagnosis and proper treatment can restore the patient’s quality of life and prevent possible complications associated with these conditions.

Now that you know what a thyroid is and what the most common problems are in that part of the body, don’t neglect how changes in its functioning can harm your health as a whole. Fortunately, there are treatment alternatives available which, as always, depend on proper evaluation and professional guidance.

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Technical review: Alexandre R. Marra, researcher at the Instituto Israelita de Ensino e Pesquisa Albert Einstein (IIEP) and permanent professor at the Graduate Program in Health Sciences at the Faculdade Israelita de Ciências da Saúde Albert Einstein (FICSAE).

Source: vidasaudavel.einstein.br

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