Anatomy And Physiology

Anatomy Physiology

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Function and importance of the thyroid gland

The thyroid is a gland that is located over the trachea (wind pipe) which is right below the larynx (Adam's apple). The thyroid produces two hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These two hormones influence practically every function in the body.

Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism, and plays a significant part in mental and physical growth. They are also instrumental in circulation, nerves and muscle function. The thyroid gland is also important for the function of other hormones. Thyroid hormones influence the response to stress through insulin and the adrenal glands.

In order for the thyroid to work; it needs a nutrient called iodine; not only does it need iodine it needs a specific amount if the thyroid is to function properly. Insufficient amount of iodine or too much iodine causes a thyroid disorder called goiter. An overgrown thyroid will cause swelling in the lower region of the neck which is known as goiter.

A malfunctioning thyroid will either be overactive or under-active and causes a range of symptoms. Thyroid disorders can be caused by many different factors. Incidence of thyroid malfunction has mainly been caused by infections, imbalance with hormones, autoimmune disease, tumors, genetic and congenital problems.

Overactive thyroid which is known as Grave's disease or hyperthyroidism creates nervousness in the people who have the disorder. The metabolism speeds up which causes weight loss, hunger, rapid heart beat, and muscle weakness. They experience excessive sweating, and those who do not have goiter have protruding eyes.

An under-active thyroid which is called hypothyroidism slows down the metabolism and has the effect of lethargy and weight gain. Hypothyroidism can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are subtle. Some symptoms of the disorder are problems with concentration, and memory loss. People with the disorder are plaqued with cold feet, and brittle nails.The eye lids become dark and puffy and hair from parts of the eyebrow falls out.. 

Treatments for these disorders do not adress the underlying malfunction, but instead focus on treating symptoms. Hyperthyroidism is treated by reducing hormone production, and by removing a part of the thyroid with surgery. Hypothyroidism is treated by adding hormones through medications which can mean being on replacement hormone therapy for a lifetime.

People with thyroid problems can get iodine by improving their diet. It is recommended that an adult should consume about 50 to 75 micrograms of iodine daily to prevent goiter. Iodine is found in seafood, leafy green vegetables and dairy products. Adding vegetables packed with Vitamin A is helpful since a deficiency in Vitamin A aggravates thyroid problems.

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