The thyroid — an important organ of the endocrine system — is a brownish-red, butterfly-shaped gland about the size of two thumbs held together. It sits just below the Adam’s apple in the front of your neck, and has two lobes connected by a bridge.
As small as it is, the thyroid affects your entire body. It produces hormones that regulate your metabolism (energy use), growth and development, heart and digestive function, brain development, muscle control, and bone maintenance. The thyroid, in turn, is controlled by the pituitary gland, a pea-sized gland at the base of the brain.
The thyroid secretes several hormones collectively known as thyroid hormones. The primary hormone produced by the thyroid is thyroxine, also called T4. Thyroid hormones travel from the thyroid gland, through the blood, to the entire body, where they perform their regulating functions — helping all your organs work well. The thyroid uses iodine from your diet to make thyroid hormone — which is why iodine is added to salt, since most diets are low in iodine.
If your body is low on thyroid hormone (underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism), you may feel overly tired or sluggish and have a low tolerance for cold. You may experience weight gain, constipation, depression, loss of libido, and have thinning or brittle hair or nails.
If your body has too much thyroid hormone (overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism), you may feel nervous, anxious, or irritable. You may have an increased heart rate, tremors, sweating and difficulty sleeping. You might lose weight even with an increased appetite. And you may have an enlarged thyroid (goiter) protruding at the base of your neck.
Long-term hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause serious health complications.
The good news is that both can be treated — and often fairly easily.
The endocrinologists at Palm Beach Diabetes & Endocrine Specialists, PA (PBDES) specialize in treating all types of thyroid disorders. Our physicians are board-certified in endocrinology and metabolism, and have extensive clinical practice, research and teaching experience. Contact one of our four southeast Florida offices today — in West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Jupiter or Wellington.