Chances are, you're not walking around thinking about your thyroid. That is, unless you have a thyroid condition. For as much as the thyroid does for our bodies, it deserves a little more attention. As part of National Thyroid Awareness Month, ACCESS is pointing out 5 interesting facts about this important gland.
1. It's butterfly-shaped
The thyroid gland looks like a butterfly. It's located at the front of our necks below the Adam's apple. And, it's pretty small – only about 4-6cm.
2. Sets your body's pace
The thyroid produces hormones that affect your metabolism or how fast or slow your brain, heart, muscles, liver and other parts of your body work.
3. Loves iodine
To work properly, the thyroid needs iodine. Simply put, if you don't get enough iodine, your thyroid cannot produce the hormone it needs to regulate organs. This can lead to thyroid disease (see #4). In the US, we get iodine through iodized foods, like table salt and bread. This is the result of a 1924 government initiative to combat iodine deficient regions in the US.
4. Can be hyper
Sometimes the thyroid is hyperactive and produces too much thyroid hormone. This condition is called hyperthyroidism. Conversely, hypothyroidism is a disease when the thyroid doesn't produce enough hormone. It's estimated that 20 million Americans have thyroid disease. If you have any of the following systems, you might have a thyroid condition that should be checked out by a doctor.
- Feeling nervous and irritable
- Having trouble concentrating
- Feeling too warm even when other people don't feel warm
- Having a fast heart rate and diarrhea
- Having trouble sleeping
- Losing weight without trying
- Feeling tired
- Feeling cold even when other people are comfortable or even warm
- Having a slow heart rate and dry skin
- Being constipated
- Gaining weight even though you're not eating more or exercising less than usual
5. It can be removed
There are some medical problems, like thyroid cancer, that may require the thyroid to be removed. If this is the case, you can actually live without it. Doctors can prescribe a thyroid hormone pill that will replicate the thyroid's functions.
Learn more or schedule an appointment
If you think you're experiencing symptoms of thyroid disease or have questions about your thyroid, schedule an appointment with your care provider today. ACCESS has locations near you and our team of health care professionals are ready to help you learn more.
American Thyroid Association
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists
Hormone Health Network