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The Human Thyroid Gland

What is the Thyroid?

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located at the back of the neck below the Adam's apple. It is the size of 2 cheeries. The thyroid consists of two lobes. The lobes are wrapped around the windpipe.

The thyroid secretes (releases) three important hormones – tri-iodothyronine (T3), thyroxine (T4) and calcitonin.

The thyroid produces hormones that control metabolism. Metabolism is the sum of the physical and chemical processes in an organism by which its material substance is produced, maintained, and destroyed. Every living substance has a metabolism.

The thyroid produces hormones that influence every organ, tissue, and cell in the body. Thyroid hormones also control heart rate, body weight, body temperature, energy level, muscle strength and menstrual regularity.

When the thyroid becomes faulty or malfunctions, metabolic disorders occur. There are two main types of thyroid malfunctions: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

Thyroid and infertility

Thyroid disorders cause irregular or a complete absence of ovulation, and thereby lead to difficulty conceiving.


Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too little amounts of thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism causes the body to function at a lower rate.

Hypothyroidism can contribute to heart disease. It can contribute to heart disease because one of the side effects is an increased amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol circulating in the blood.


Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much hormone. Hyperthyroidism increases the rate at which each cell functions, increasing all the reactions that occur in the body. Some of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are: nervousness, decreased menstrual flow, weight loss, and irregular heartbeat.

People with hyperthyroidism may experience problems with infertility and miscarriage.

Risk Factors of Thyroid Disease

Some of the risk factors for developing thyroid disease are: sex, age, genetics, and radiation exposure,

  1. Women are five to eight times more likely to suffer from a thyroid disorder than men. One in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder in their lifetimes.
  2. Women continue to have a higher risk of developing a thyroid disorder with age.
  3. A man's risk of developing thyroid disease increases after passing age 60.
  4. Radiation exposure above the head and neck region during childhood increases the risk of thyroid disease.

Symptoms of Thyroid Disease

Some of the most common symptoms for thyroid disease are: fatigue, changes in weight, mood swings, and forgetfulness.

Can Thyroid Disease be Treated?

Yes. Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can be treated by hormone therapy, provided by your doctor. Thyroid cancer, another disease, can also be treated.

Thyroid Disease Statistics

There are more than 20 million Americans with thyroid disease. Most of the 20 million do not know they have thyroid disease.


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