The thyroid gland is one of the largest endocrine glands in the human body. The Latin name of this gland is Glandula thyreoidea. Through its main hormones, triiodothyronine and thyroxine, it helps regulate the metabolism of the other organs and tissues. It is located on the front part of the neck, right below the laryngeal prominence, or the Adam’s apple, and it has the form of a shield or a butterfly, with spread wings.


thyroid gland

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Iodine is very important for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, supplied through the bloodstream.

Besides triiodothyronine and thyroxine, this endocrine gland also produces the hormone calcitonin, which controls the calcium levels in the human body. In addition, it regulates the metabolism of the other tissues and organs, by speeding it up or slowing it down. Thus, people always refer to a fast or slow metabolism.

For the overall human health, it’s not good to have neither increased nor decreased functioning of the thyroid gland.

The Functions Of The Thyroid Gland

In addition to regulating the metabolism, the thyroid with its hormones also does the following:

  • In pregnant women, it affects the proper growth and development of the fetus, especially its nervous system
  • Encourages creation of proteins (albumin)
  • Accelerates breakdown of fats from the adipose tissue
  • Accelerates heart rate and the strength of the heart (cardiac output)
  • Increases oxygen consumption and heat generation
  • Increases muscle strength with a moderate concentration of its hormones. Also, causes muscle fatigue and tremor with a higher concentration of hormones.
  • Promotes alertness, memory and learning ability
  • Increases nervousness
  • Affects the proper sexual functioning of men and women, as well as the normal course of pregnancy
Thyroid Gland Diseases
  • Goiter manifests as an enlarged thyroid gland. It can occur at elevated and reduced concentrations of the thyroid hormones. There’s a toxic and a nontoxic goiter. In addition, goiter may be accompanied by normal levels of thyroid hormones in the blood.
    • Toxic goiter is usually associated with increased levels of the hormones.
    • Nontoxic goiter is caused by iodine deficiency, known as endemic goiter.
  • Hyperthyroidism indicates increased concentration of thyroid hormones. The most common example is the Graves’ disease. It may, or may not be accompanied by goiter.
  • Hypothyroidism is the decreased concentration of thyroid hormones. The most common example is the Hashimoto’s disease, also referred to as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis. In this case, goiter cannot occur.
  • Malignant tumors are relatively common. They can affect people of all ages and both sexes, but are more common in women and in people over 30 years of age.
  • A solitary thyroid node is a very common health condition. Some studies even indicate that it affects more than a half of the adult population. Luckily, it’s mostly benign.

Thyroiditis encompasses all inflammations of the thyroid. It stands for all dysfunctions of the gland, but it’s mainly used as a term for hyperthyroidism.

Diagnosis

Clinical examinations involve touching the neck and the use of a stethoscope, to have an insight whether the gland is enlarged.

Other common methods, used to diagnose thyroid disorders, include:

  • Ultrasound, to determine whether there’s an enlargement of the gland, or presence of nodules and cysts.
  • Nuclear imaging, carried out by the means of binding radioactive iodine in the tissue of the gland.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), used to detect cancer and malignant tissues.
  • Blood analysis, to define the levels of the thyroid hormones in the blood.
  • Biopsy, in case of suspected malignant nodules. This test is performed with the help of a needle, to test the tissue of the thyroid nodules and determine whether they are malignant or benign.
Thyroid Self-Exam

To check whether you have a thyroid enlargement, all you need to do is check your neck. Get a mirror and a glass of water, and start the test. It’s that simple!

Take a sip of the water and tilt your head back, to stretch your neck. Watch your neck carefully in the mirror, while you swallow. Repeat the process several times.

What you should be looking for are asymmetries on the neck, protrusions or bulges, which may indicate enlargement of the gland, or a nodule. If you notice anything like this, it’s time to visit a thyroid specialist.

Watch below video, to see how to do this thyroid neck check test.

Reference:
Thyroid
Prevention Magazine