The thyroid factory: Understanding thyroid production

Thyroid Function, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidsm

and

Endocrinology, Medicine, Thyroid Disease

What does the thyroid do?: Its a factory that helps you run your body.

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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.

Thyroid function:

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


Hyperthyroidism Symptoms: Feel hyper all the time.
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). 
Hyperthyroidism Symptoms: Include racing heart and

High: T3 and T4        Low: T.S.H.

Hyperthyroid symptoms include weight loss, palpitations, sweating, heat intolerance, high blood pressure, hair loss, irregular menses, insomnia, and irritability.

Hypothyroidism: Low thyroid

Hypothyroidism Symptoms: Feel tired all the time.
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. 
Hypothyroidism Symptoms: Include fatigue and cold intolerance.

Low: T3 and T4     High: T.S.H.

Hypothyroid symptoms include weight gain, constipation, dry skin, enlarged thyroid, high cholesterol, irritability, sensitivity to cold, sexual dysfunction, palpitations, fatigue, or irregular periods.


About the Authors
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Chris Palmeiro D.O. M.Sc.

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Dr. Palmeiro is Chairman of Endocrinology at the HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, he also serves patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities at the Westchester Institute of Human Development in Valhalla, New York. He has a Masters of Science degree in clinical nutrition and is a diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine. His interests within the realm of endocrinology include nutrition support, obesity counseling and the progressive management of diabetes.

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Rishi Anand M.D.

Dr. Anand is a board certified Endocrinologist. He graduated magna cum laude from the accelerated 7 year Renssaelear Polytechnic Institute-Albany Medical College combined physician scientist program. He practices Endocrinology in Bristol, PA. There, he treats a wide range of Endocrine disorders including diabetes, thyroid disease, and other hormonal imbalances.

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Last Modified: Oct 12, 2017 @ 7:04 pm

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The thyroid factory: Understanding thyroid production
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The thyroid factory: Understanding thyroid production
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Lots of patients are concerned they may have a problem with their thyroid. This tablet discusses the basics of this common medical issue.
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