Your thyroid is a small gland with a big purpose. Find out why is the thyroid important with a specialist doctor from Mediclinic Deira.
4 January 2021| Last updated on 5 January 2021
January is Thyroid Awareness Month, and on that occasion, Dr. Nagwa Akasha, Specialist Internal Medicine – Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, from Mediclinic Deira, gives her expert information on why our thyroid is important.
What is the thyroid?
The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in front of the neck. It produces hormones that control the speed of your metabolism, the system that helps the body use energy.
Thyroid disorders can slow down or increase the metabolism by disrupting the production of thyroid hormones.
What is the function of the thyroid?
Your thyroid has an important job to do within your body - it controls the release of thyroid hormones that in turn control your metabolism. Metabolism is a process where the food you take into your body is transformed into energy. This energy is used throughout your entire body to keep many of your body’s systems working correctly.
The thyroid controls your metabolism with a few specific hormones T4 (thyroxin, contains 4 iodide atoms) and T3 (triiodothyronine contains 3 iodide atoms). These two hormones are created by the thyroid and they tell the body’s cells how much energy to use.
When your thyroid works properly, it will maintain the right amount of hormones to keep your metabolism working at the right rate. As the hormones are used the thyroid creates replacements.
This is all supervised by something called the pituitary gland, located in the centre of the skull, below your brain. The pituitary gland monitors and controls the amount of thyroid hormones in your bloodstream and will adjust the amounts with its own hormone.
This hormone is called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH will be sent to the thyroid and it will tell the thyroid what needs to be done to get the body back to normal.
What is thyroid disease?
Thyroid disease is a general term for a medical condition that keeps your thyroid from making the right amount of hormones. Your thyroid typically makes hormones that keep your body functioning normally. When the thyroid makes too much thyroid hormone, your body uses energy too quickly which is called hyperthyroidism.
Using energy too quickly will do more than make you tired - it can make your heart beat faster, causes you to lose weight without trying, and even make you feel nervous.
On the flip side of this, your thyroid can make too little thyroid hormone which is called hypothyroidism. When you have too little thyroid hormone in your body, it can make you feel tired, you might gain weight and you even be unable to tolerate cold temperatures.
These two main disorders can be caused by a variety of conditions. They can also be passed down through families (inherited).
Who is affected by thyroid disease?
Thyroid disease can affect anyone: men, women, infants, teenagers, and the elderly. It can be present from birth (typically hypothyroidism) and it can develop as you age, often after menopause in women.
Thyroid disease is very common, with 20 million sufferers in the USA. Women are about five to eight times more likely to be diagnosed with a thyroid condition than men.
High-risk groups to develop thyroid disease:
- Family history of thyroid disease
- Have a medical condition like pernicious anemia, type 1 diabetes, primary adrenal insufficiency, Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogrens syndrome and Turners’ syndrome, Down syndrome
- Taking medication with high iodine content (Amiodarone)
- Older than 60 years, especially women
Symptoms of an overactive thyroid (Hyperthyroidism):
- Anxiety, irritability, nervousness
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight loss
- Presence of an enlarged thyroid gland or goiter
- Muscle weakness and tremors
- Irregular menstrual periods or having your menstrual cycle stop
- Feeling sensitive to heat
- Having visual problems or eye irritation
Symptoms of an underactive thyroid (Hypothyroidism):
- Feeling tired
- Weight gain
- Experiencing forgetfulness
- Having frequent and heavy menstrual cycles
- Dry and course hair
- Hoarse voice
- Intolerance to cold temperatures
Can thyroid issues make me lose my hair?
Yes, hair loss is a symptom of thyroid disease, particularly hypothyroidism
Thyroid screening in Dubai
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is important to see your doctor and book a TSH and T4 levels screening, which is done via a blood test. If the TSH level is high it is called hypothyroidism, if it is low then it is called hyperthyroidism.
Authored by Dr. Nagwa Akasha