The thyroid factory: Understanding thyroid production

The thyroid factory: Understanding thyroid production

and Endocrinology, Medicine, Thyroid Disease

The thyroid gland is like a factory and its function can be easily tested using simple blood levels. Understanding how the thyroid works will help you to understand your blood test results.

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A lot of patients are concerned that they might have a thyroid 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. 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 two thyroid hormones the factory produces are T4 and T3, call them “toys”. The T4 toy is very durable and lasts a long time.  While T3 lasts only a short while but it's much more potent.

The thyroid gland is a factory that makes hormone 24 hours a day. The two thyroid hormones the factory produces are T4 and T3. The thyroid factory makes T4 and T3 “toys” around the clock. The thyroid factory makes much more of the T4 toy than it does the T3. That is because the T4 toy is very durable and lasts a long time even if people play with it. The factory also makes a T3 toy because the T3 toy is super exciting, but it breaks down very easily when it is used. When your doctor orders T4 and T3 blood levels, he is checking to see if the thyroid hormones are adequate in your blood. The T4 test is more reliable over long periods of time (the durable toy). T3 is the active thyroid hormone (the exciting toy) 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 toys. In your body, the pituitary “calls” the thyroid factory by using a hormone called TSH (“Toy stimulating hormone”).

Thyroid and its relationship to the pituitary - Doctablet
High Thyroid Hormone Levels:
Thyroid production is high, pituitary sleeps - Doctablet

If the thyroid factory is making a lot T4 and T3 toys, Mr. Pituitary does not need to work hard and he can relax. He makes very few calls to the factory. Someone with high thyroid hormone levels will have a low TSH.

High: T3 and T4
Low: T.S.H.

Thyroid factory is working overtime - Doctablet
Low Thyroid Hormone Levels:
Thyroid production is low, pituitary is calling for more - Doctablet

If the thyroid factory is not making enough T4 and T3 toys, Mr. Pituitary gets upset and calls the factory more often, hoping to ramp up production. In the blood of someone with a low thyroid hormone level, the TSH is high.

Low: T3 and T4
High: T.S.H.

Thyroid factory is not working enough - Doctablet
About the Authors
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Chris Palmeiro D.O.

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.

And
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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: Jun 17, 2017 @ 2:55 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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Doctablet®
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