Information about the Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is small gland that weighs less than 50 grams in most adults. It is located towards the front of the neck and is one of the largest endocrine glands. Derived from the Greek word meaning shield, the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in front of the windpipe (called the trachea) and just below the larynx or Adam’s apple in the neck. It is comprised of two halves, known as lobes, which are attached by a band of tissue called the isthmus.
During development, the gland is actually located in the back of the tongue and has to migrate to the front of the neck before birth. There are rare instances when the gland migrates too far or too little. There are even cases when the gland remains in the back of the tongue and this is known as lingual thyroid.
Although small, it plays a large role in producing hormones that every cell in your body relies on for the proper conversion of calories and oxygen to energy. The balanced production of hormones ensures proper regulation of your body’s metabolic processes.
When the gland is either overactive or underactive, a number of health issues can arise. People with thyroid problems experience symptoms related to improper hormone production. It is important to be aware of these symptoms so that you can begin a suitable treatment plan if your gland is not functioning properly.
The three main areas of information here cover questions about the thyroid gland, disorders and cancers.
The thyroid gland or simply, the thyroid, is one of the largest endocrine glands. This gland controls how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins, and controls how sensitive the body is to other hormones. It participates in these processes by producing thyroid hormones.
The thyroid’s main role in the endocrine system is to regulate your metabolism, which is your body’s ability to break down food and convert it to energy. Food essentially fuels our bodies, and our bodies metabolise the fuel at different rates. This is why you may have heard about some people having “fast” metabolism and others having “slow” metabolism.
Thyroid cancer can occur at any age, but risk peaks for women when they are between the ages of 45 and 49 years – for men, between the ages of 65 and 69 years. Exposure to radiation significantly increases the risk of thyroid cancer and females are three times more likely than males to develop thyroid cancer.
Thyroid cancer may also be inherited due to genetic mutations. Like other cancers, changes in the DNA of your cells seem to play a role. These DNA changes may include changes that are inherited as well as those that happen as you get older. People who have been exposed to a significant level radiation have a greater chance of developing thyroid cancer.
People often discover that they have a thyroid disorder after they begin experiencing a variety of symptoms. You may notice symptoms such difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, sudden weight loss, or feelings of anxiety. A common symptom of thyroid dysfunction is fatigue. If you experience a few of these signs, it is worth your health to schedule an appointment with a throat specialist who can perform a thorough exam.
A neck lump or nodule is the most common symptom of thyroid cancer. You may feel a lump, notice one side of your neck appears to be different, or your doctor may find it during a routine examination. If the lump is large, it may cause neck or facial pain, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, cough unrelated to a cold, hoarseness or voice change. If you have questions about the thyroid gland, contact your local doctor who will arrange for you to see a thyroid surgeon.