This gland produces thyroid hormones that affect the functioning of every cell, tissue and organ in your body. These hormones help regulate your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and the rate at which food is converted into energy.
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) produced by the pituitary gland stimulates hormone production by the thyroid gland.
Another important hormone made by the thyroid gland is calcitonin, which plays a role in calcium homeostasis.
Underactive thyroid: Also known as hypothyroidism, this condition is marked by reducing activity of the thyroid gland.
In simple terms, it means there’s a lack of sufficient thyroid hormones circulating throughout the body. This slows the metabolic activity within the body.
Overactive thyroid: Also known as hyperthyroidism, this condition is marked by an abnormal increase in the activity of the thyroid gland.
In simple terms, it means an excess of thyroid hormones circulating in the blood. This speeds up the metabolic activity unusually within the body.
Hypothyroidism is much more common than hyperthyroidism. Both problems are usually diagnosed by a blood test measuring the level of T3, T4, and TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) in the body.
Causes of underactive thyroid
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s disease. In this disease, the immune system makes antibodies that destroy thyroid cells and stop them from making the thyroid hormones.
Other causes of hypothyroidism include genetics, a low-iodine diet, congenital hypothyroidism, thyroiditis and damage to the pituitary gland.
Radiation exposure from cancer treatment, certain medications and surgical removal of the thyroid can also lead to this problem.
Women over age 50, people with autoimmune diseases, people treated with anti-thyroid medication and people with a history of radiation to the neck and upper chest are at a higher risk of suffering from this condition.
Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to many health complications, including a goiter (enlarged thyroid gland), heart problems, depression, peripheral neuropathy, edema, infertility and birth defects.
Causes of overactive thyroid
Graves’s disease, an autoimmune condition that stimulates production of the T4 and T3 hormones, is the most common cause of overactive thyroid.
Other causes include excess iodine intake, inflammation of the thyroid (thyroiditis), tumors of the ovaries or testes, benign tumors of the thyroid or pituitary gland, and excess intake of tetraiodothyronine through dietary supplements or medication.
Hyperthyroidism tends to run in families and is more common in women than men.
If not controlled in time, excess thyroid hormones can lead to a number of health complications, including heart problems, weak bones, poor eyesight, swollen skin and thyrotoxic crisis.
How To Treat Them?
Antithyroid medications, such as methimazole, help stop the thyroid from making excess hormones. Even radioactive iodine (taken orally) is effective at treating this problem.
If neither of these options works, a section or all of your thyroid gland may be surgically removed.
Dietary changes can also help control hyperthyroidism. Eat foods that provide enough calcium and vitamin D along with protein-based foods and sea vegetables.
To treat hypothyroidism, doctors often prescribe synthetic thyroid hormones (levothyroxine). This oral medication restores adequate hormone levels, when taken in the right dose.
At the same time, alternative treatments such as coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, fish oil, kelp, ginger and vitamin D-rich foods can help restore the normal thyroid hormones.