Thyroid Awareness

Are you aware of what the thyroid gland is? How about where it is located in the body? This article will take a look at this small-but-powerful gland that is a large part of our everyday lives!

The thyroid is a small gland located below the voice box and above the collar bone in the front of the neck. It resembles the look of a butterfly and it has a brownish-red tint to it. The gland is also very light, weighing less than an ounce.

Although small and light in weight, the thyroid plays an important job in the human body. Its function is to secrete hormones throughout the body that help to control the metabolism and growth.

However, to do its job correctly the thyroid needs a chemical element called iodine that the body absorbs from the foods you eat and the water you drink. The entire body contains about 50 milligrams of iodine. About 1/3 of that supply (15 milligrams) is stored in your thyroid. The thyroid combines the iodine with tyrosine (an amino acid) to make important hormones.

Why is this important for you to know?
The truth is this: about 60 million Americans are suffering from a thyroid condition. The significant part is that half of these people (nearly 30 million) are not aware they have any sort of condition. This is alarming because by having a thyroid condition that is not being properly treated can lead to many other problems within the body.

With that being said, let’s take a look into some of the more common thyroid diseases.

Hyperthyroidism – this is a condition in which the body produces too much thyroid hormone, and is therefore leaked into the bloodstream due to an overactive thyroid. Hypothyroidism causes the body to use up energy more quickly than it should, and chemical activity (such as the metabolism) speeds up.

Hypothyroidism – the opposite condition of hyperthyroidism in which the body produces too little thyroid hormone into the bloodstream causing the chemical activity to slow way down.

Thyroiditis – Thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland. It may be associated with either hypo- or hyperthyroidism. It may be painful, feeling like a sore throat, or could be painless. Thyroiditis may be due to autoimmune activity, an infection, exposure to a chemical that is toxic to the thyroid, or an unknown cause.

Thyroid Nodules – thyroid nodule is a small lump on the thyroid gland that may be solid or a fluid-filled cyst. As many as 4 percent of women and 1 percent of men will have one or more thyroid nodules; however, the overwhelming majority of these nodules are harmless. Occasionally, thyroid nodules can be cancerous and need to be treated.

Thyroid Cancer – there are four main types of thyroid cancers: papillary, follicular, anaplastic, and medullary cancer. About 60-70 percent of thyroid cancer cases are papillary. This type affects more women than men and is more common in younger people. About 15 percent of thyroid cancers are follicular, a more aggressive type of cancer that tends to occur in older women. Anaplastic cancer, also found in older women, accounts for about 5 percent of thyroid cancers and tends to be both aggressive and difficult to treat.

Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) produces calcitonin and may be found alone or linked with other endocrine cancers in a syndrome called multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome. MTC can also be difficult to treat if it spreads beyond the thyroid.

Other thyroid conditions include goiters, grave’s disease, and Hashimoto’s disease.

Although it may seem like there are a lot of conditions, most of the conditions are easily treatable. A simple blood test called a Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) can detect if your thyroid levels are normal.
If you feel that you may have a thyroid problem or you would like more information, it’s important you speak with your family doctor.

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