A lot of patients are concerned that they might have a thyroid gland problem. The thyroid’s function can be easily tested, by your doctor, using simple blood levels. Understanding how the thyroid works will help you to understand your blood test results.
What does thyroid do?
Thyroid hormone is produced by the thyroid gland and helps to regulate many important functions in the body. Some of the most important functions of thyroid hormone include maintaining hair growth, bowel habits, body temperature, weight, and energy levels. The thyroid gland is said to be shaped like a butterfly and is located in the neck just under where you can feel the “Adam’s apple” (both males and females have an Adam’s apple, but it is more noticeable in men). If you feel around your neck, you are not likely to be able to feel your thyroid because it is made up of soft tissue.
The thyroid gland is said to be shaped like a butterfly and is located in the neck just under where you can feel the “Adam’s apple.” Some of the most important functions of thyroid hormone include maintaining hair growth, bowel habits, body temperature, weight, and energy levels.
The thyroid gland is a factory that makes hormone 24 hours a day. The two thyroid hormones the factory produces are T4 and T3. T4 and T3 are made around the clock. The thyroid factory makes much more of T4 than it does the T3. That is because T4 is very durable and lasts a long time. The factory also makes a T3 because the T3 is super powerful, but it breaks down very easily when it is used. When your doctor orders T4 and T3 blood levels, he is checking your thyroid function. The T4 test is more reliable over long periods of time. T3 is the active thyroid hormone and levels can vary over short periods of time.
The boss of the thyroid factory is the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is found high up in the body, in the center of the brain. Using our factory example, Mr. Pituitary sits high up in a tower above the factory and calls orders to the factory, telling it to make more or less product. In your body, the pituitary “calls” the thyroid factory by using a hormone called TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone.)
Thyroid gland problems: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism: High Thyroid
In hyperthyroidism, we see a state of overproduction. The thyroid factory has lost control and is making too much T4 and T3 (High T3 and T4). Mr. Pituitary does not need to work hard and he can relax. He makes very few calls to the factory floor (Low Thyroid Stimulating Hormone).
Hypothyroidism: Low thyroid
In hypothyroidism, the thyroid factory is not making enough T4 and T3 (Low T3 and T4). Mr. Pituitary gets upset and calls the factory more often (High Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), hoping to ramp up production.
Share This With a Patient or Friend