Thyroid - An overview
Posted: Tuesday, October 07th, 2008 | Posted by: Sample Article | Views: 23991
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The thyroid gland is a small endocrine organ situated in the neck. It produces hormones, which have a profound impact on the body as a whole.

The hormones produced are three in number: tri-iodo thyronine, thyroxine and calcitonin. Of these, the first two are of daily relevance.

The dynamic release of these two hormones is controlled by the pituitary gland, located in the brain.

Disorders and diseases of the thyroid gland are extremely common and have a special predilection for women. The most common problems encountered in every day practice are: underactive thyroid gland, overactive thyroid gland, and thyroid swellings, which may be benign or malignant.
An underactive thyroid gland (otherwise called hypothyroidism) may be due to many reasons.

The most important pertains to a dietary iodine deficiency or an autoimmune process, which destroys the thyroid cells thus reducing its ability to release thyroid hormones.

Fortunately, in most countries, lack of dietary iodine has been combated by iodination of common salt. Rarer causes include congenital problems of thyroid development and function as well as usage of certain drugs.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism are often mild and may be detectable only on testing the thyroid hormone levels. In others with more marked deficiency, symptoms include: tiredness, lethargy, weight gain, heavy or irregular menstrual periods. These may or may not be accompanied by a visible thyroid swelling.

The diagnosis of an under active thyroid gland involves a thorough physical examination by one's health care provider along with a blood test. This involves the estimation of not only the thyroid hormones but also the controlling hormone released by the pituitary gland.

Treatment is by administering thyroid hormones in tablet form. Blood tests may be needed periodically to monitor the treatment and its efficacy.

An overactive thyroid gland (otherwise called hyperthyroidism) is a less common problem. Many of these may be autoimmune in nature, while in others, the thyroid may form one or more nodules which lead to excess hormone production.

Other rarer causes of overactivity also exist.

The symptoms of overactivity include: nervousness, tremors, increased appetite, weight loss, prominent eyes etc.

Not all symptoms are present in an individual patient.

Once again, these symptoms may be accompanied by a swelling of the thyroid gland in some. Similar to the under active thyroid gland, the diagnosis of an over active thyroid involves a thorough physical examination by one's health care provider along with a blood test.

Other special thyroid gland scans are done along with this.

The treatment of these problems tends to be complex, involving the use of anti-thyroid drugs, radioactive iodine to destroy the overactive thyroid tissue or surgery to remove the overactive gland or part of the gland.

Cancers of the thyroid gland are far less common than the problems mentioned above and fortunately are often curable by a combination of treatment modalities listed above.
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