You’ve heard of the butterflies in your stomach…but did you know you have one in your neck?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located at the base of your neck. It is formed by two lobes. A small bridge connects the two lobes located on respective sides of the windpipe. 

Each individual has one thyroid gland. It produces two hormones—thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid hormones are vital as they support normal body function. 

Thyroid Functions

Your thyroid functions as one of five major constituents in the endocrine system. The endocrine system controls hormone production, secretion and regulation. These hormonal facets support homeostasis—a state of balance between body systems. 

Therefore, thyroid health is vital.

Thyroids produce two hormones—thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The numbers in T3 and T4 refer to the number of iodine atoms in each hormone. Enzymes remove an iodine from inactive T4 hormones to create active T3 hormones. These hormones influence metabolism within body cells. Therefore, thyroid hormones control the speed at which body cells work. 

The rate at which body cells work may be affected if thyroid hormone secretions falter. This results in hyperthyroidism—via excess secretions—or hypothyroidism—via lacking secretions. 

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism refers to an overactive thyroid. It occurs when the thyroid gland produces excess thyroxine. Hyperthyroidism increases metabolism and results in homeostatic dysfunction. Though not exhaustive, below are common symptoms of hyperthyroidism: 

  • Anxiety: increased nervousness, anxiousness or irritability
  • Appearance: brittle hair, skin thinning or bulging eyes 
  • Heartbeat: rapid, irregular or pounding heart rates
  • Heat: increased sensitivity to heat and/or increased sweating
  • Menstruation: irregular cycles or flow changes in females
  • Swelling: enlarged thyroid or swelling at the base of the neck
  • Weight: unintentional weight loss despite steady food intake

Only one-percent of individuals experience hyperthyroidism in the United States. However, it is still important to monitor and prioritize thyroid health. 

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism refers to an overactive thyroid. This occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism increases metabolism and results in homeostatic dysfunction. Though not exhaustive, below are common symptoms of hypothyroidism:

  • Appearance: dry skin and thinning hair
  • Joints: stiffness, swelling or tenderness
  • Menstruation: increased blood flow and irregular cycles 
  • Mood: increased fatigue, depression or impaired memory
  • Muscles: aches, pains, tenderness or stiffness
  • Swelling: enlarged thyroid or swelling at the base of the neck
  • Weight: increased appetite or unintentional weight gain 

Five-percent of individuals experience hypothyroidism in the United States. It is more prevalent in females. However, it is important for everyone to monitor and prioritize thyroid health. 

Why Should You Care About Thyroid Health?

Your thyroid functions as one of five major constituents in the endocrine system. The endocrine system controls hormone production, secretion and regulation. These hormonal facets support homeostasis—a state of balance between body systems. Our thyroids release two hormones—thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid hormones are vital as they support normal body function. The above subsections—hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism—outline the dysfunction that may occur within the body when thyroids act in unhealthy states. 

Thyroid health supports harmony and functionality across all body systems. 

Key Terms for Thyroid Health: 

  • Thyroid: endocrine gland that produces thyroid hormone—located at base of neck
  • Hormones: chemicals that tell organs, muscles and other tissues what to do
  • Thyroid Hormone: regulate the speed at which body cells work
    • Triiodothyronine (T3): active thyroid hormone
    • Thyroxine (T4): largely inactive thyroid hormone
  • Homeostasis: balance between body systems that promotes proper body function
  • Metabolism: body turns food and drink into energy via chemical reactions   

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