The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland found at the front of the neck, along the front of the windpipe. Normally, the thyroid gland cannot be seen and can barely be felt. However, if it becomes enlarged it can be felt, and sometimes a prominent bulge (goiter) may appear.
The thyroid creates and secretes thyroid hormones. The two main thyroid hormones are T4 (Thyroxine) and T3 (Triiodothyronine). Together, these hormones regulate your body’s temperature, metabolism, heart rate, and other important processes.
Several different thyroid disorders can arise when your thyroid produces too much hormone (hyperthyroidism) or not enough (hypothyroidism).
Hypothyroidism may not cause noticeable symptoms in the early stages. If left untreated, however, it may present a number of health problems, including obesity and cardiovascular disease. Symptoms of hypothyroidism can vary but may include weight gain, fatigue, thinning hair, joint pain, increased sensitivity to cold and, in women, heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods.
One of the causes of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder whereby your body produces antibodies that attack and destroy your thyroid gland.
Hyperthyroidism can affect anyone but it is more common among women. Symptoms may include anxiety, fatigue, edginess, irregular heartbeat, sleep disturbance, heat sensitivity, tremors, weight loss despite normal eating habits, and reduced libido. In men, it may lead to erectile dysfunction, and, in women, to menstrual cycle changes. If left untreated, hyperthyroidism can lead to bone changes, cardiovascular problems, and liver problems, to name a few.
There are several conditions that cause hyperthyroidism. One of the causes is Graves’ disease. In Graves’ disease your immune system creates antibodies that cause your thyroid to grow and produce an excess of thyroid hormone.