Your thyroid gland can impact your overall health. It’s responsible for how your metabolism operates, and hormones play a vital role in its function. Here’s what you need to know about this gland and how it works so you can maintain your well-being.
Where Is Your Thyroid Located?
Your thyroid sits in your neck under your larynx, or Adam’s apple. It’s shaped like a butterfly with a right and left lobe. A healthy thyroid doesn’t protrude or push against your throat, and you won’t be able to feel anything when you press that area.
In rare cases, your thyroid may be at the back of your throat. This irregularity happens during development in the womb. The thyroid initially grows here before moving to its position under your larynx.
How Does Your Thyroid Work?
The thyroid creates hormones that regulate your heart, brain and digestive systems. Those factors contribute to your body’s metabolic rate. This process needs iodine to operate correctly because your thyroid uses that compound to turn food into energy.
The pituitary and hypothalamus work together to secrete different hormones. Your pituitary produces thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is controlled by thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) from your hypothalamus. This system is known as your hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis (HPT).
The two main hormones produced by your thyroid are thyroxine (T3) and triiodothyronine (T4). A thyroid that operates normally keeps a balance of 80% T4 and 20% T3. Your body needs to maintain those levels so your thyroid performs correctly.
How do your thyroid hormones affect your body? Here’s a look at three central areas.
1. Blood Pressure
Your thyroid can influence your blood pressure. Organs like your heart and brain that receive hormones from your thyroid are key to your blood pressure, too. Therefore, you need to pay attention to your thyroid function so you can maintain your blood pressure levels.
If your thyroid produces too little TSH, you can experience low blood pressure as a result. This condition is called hypothyroidism, and it can be difficult to recognize at first. That said, you may notice other symptoms like muscle weakness, thinning hair and dry skin.
2. Weight Gain
Your thyroid impacts weight gain because it’s responsible for how quickly you process calories. That’s why you may hear people say they have a “low” or “high” metabolism. That said, your metabolism isn’t always to blame for your weight.
Other factors can contribute more prominently. You can likely attribute your weight to predispositions like age and gender. However, if you’re concerned about how much you weigh, you should consider whether your thyroid may be to blame.
3. Body Temperature
Do you ever feel too cold or hot? There may be a cause other than your house’s thermostat. Your thyroid hormones affect your body’s temperature, and you may feel abnormally chilly or warm if they’re unbalanced.
A low or high body temperature can lead to specific issues. For example, your toes or fingers may feel cold. However, you might experience more extreme conditions that impact your long-term health. It’s essential to talk to your doctor when you have concerns.
Types of Thyroid Disorders
You can develop various thyroid disorders as you age. These concerns most commonly occur due to unbalanced thyroid hormone, lumps or nodules, and abnormal gland growth. There are several main types aside from benign masses and cancer, including these three:
- Hyperthyroidism: An overactive thyroid can cause hyperthyroidism due to too much thyroid hormone. Symptoms include heat sensitivity and excessive eating.
- Hypothyroidism: If your thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone, you have hypothyroidism. Infants with hypothyroidism can experience mental disabilities. As an adult, you may not eat enough or have cold sensitivity.
- Thyroiditis: This condition happens when your thyroid is inflamed. Cells can die as a result, which affects your metabolism.
If you notice symptoms you can’t attribute to a particular issue, you should consult your doctor about potential thyroid problems. They can be challenging to track and identify. This way, you’ll be able to treat your concerns accordingly and put yourself on the path to better health.
When Should You See a Doctor?
A thyroid condition can develop over time, so you won’t always be able to detect what’s wrong. That said, you should keep an eye out for random symptoms you can’t attribute to other conditions. For example, you don’t want to disregard sudden weight loss or sleeping problems.
An annual physician’s appointment will help you stay on top of your health. Be sure to let your doctor know about any symptoms you’ve been feeling so they can determine whether you have a thyroid issue. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Your Thyroid Hormones Influence Your Body in Many Ways
Your thyroid is an integral part of your body. As a result, it’s essential to pay attention to its key functions. It’s not always easy to know when you’re experiencing a thyroid-related condition, so it’s a good idea to be informed and take charge of your health. When in doubt, see your doctor and relay your concerns so you can feel your best.