The thyroid gland in located at the base of the neck. In encircles the trachea, or windpipe. There is a right and left lobe that are connected in the middle by the isthmus. The gland produces thyroid hormone and calcitonin. The thyroid gland is regulated by the brain through the action of the pituitary gland. Thyroid hormone is an integral controller of the body's metabolism. Calcitonin, is a hormone that influences the amount of calcium in the blood. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces an excessive amount of thyroid hormone, or an excessive amount of the hormone is ingested or injected into the body. The most common form of this condition is Graves’ disease. Here, the most noticeable feature is bulging of the eyes. Hyperthyroidism is most common between the ages of 20 and 50, and is more common in women than men. Hypothyroidism occurs when not enough thyroid hormone is produced. If this condition occurs during childhood, it can lead to severe mental deficiencies. Occasionally, failure of the pituitary gland can lead to hypothyroidism, through the lack of stimulation. Profound cases of hypothyroidism can lead to Myxedema coma. An underproduction of the thyroid hormone due to underactive thyroid gland. All metabolic processes are affected by the thyroid hormone located in the neck. Hypothyroidism is more common in middle-aged women, but can affect all ages and sexes.
Causes of Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism may be caused by an autoimmune disease, such as Hashimoto's disease, in which the body’s immune system functions abnormally and attacks the thyroid gland. The use of radioactive iodine treatment can lead to destruction of the thyroid gland. Surgery of the thyroid gland for hyperthyroidism may produce hypothyroidism. A diet that is deficient in iodine may not permit the thyroid gland to function normally. Some drugs, such as lithium, may depress thyroid function. An last, tumors of the brain or pituitary gland may prevent the release of thyroid stimulating hormone, which is necessary for the thyroid gland to function.
Signs and Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism can produce a number of clinical symptoms. They vary to some degree based on the severity of the disorder. There is an intolerance for cold. Decreased sweating is seen. There is often a decreased appetite, and despite this, there may be weight gain. A slow heart beat may occur. Constipation, dry skin and dry hair develop. Hair growth becomes slowed and the hair may appear more coarse than normal. A goiter may develop, which is a enlargement or swelling of the thyroid gland in the neck. Women may experience menstrual abnormalities, particularly heavy or prolonged menstrual periods. Loss of interest in sex is common and there may be infertility. Other less common symptoms that might be seen with hypothyroidism include: insomnia, mental impairment, depression, psychosis, poor memory, fluid retention, especially around the eyes, dull facial expression, droopy eyelids, decreased tolerance for medication, anemia, numbness and tingling of the hands and feet, and deepened or hoarse voice.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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