August 01, 2016

Thyroid function disorders

Finding the right balance

Thyroid function disorders

You used to love early morning walks, but lately you've had a hard time getting motivated. You feel kind of "blah" about a lot of things — which isn't your usual self. You've felt other changes, too — dry skin, a bit of weight gain and constipation — but they hardly seem related. You wonder if it's just a part of aging.

In fact, these might all be signs and symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland. Thyroid disorders are more common with age and yet can appear more subtly in older people.

The thyroid gland has an enormous impact on your health. It helps set the rate at which your body functions, regulating all aspects of your metabolism, from how regular your digestive system is to how quickly your heart beats. In response to direction from the pituitary gland in your brain, the thyroid gland secretes the hormones thyroxine (T4) and in smaller amounts triiodothyronine (T3). The more thyroid hormone that's circulating in your bloodstream, the greater the speed at which chemical activities occur in your body.

A delicate balance

As long as your thyroid gland produces the right amount of T4 and T3, your metabolism receives all the right signals. But sometimes the gland produces and releases too much or not enough hormone, upsetting the delicate balance of chemical reactions in your body. When your thyroid gland produces too little hormone, this is called underactive thyroid disease (hypothyroidism). When it produces too much, you have overactive thyroid disease (hyperthyroidism).

Thyroid function abnormalities are caused by thyroid disorders such as autoimmune disease, inflammation, or abnormal growths or nodules, which...