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Thyroid Glands

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The thyroid gland is an integral part of the endocrine system in the human body. The thyroid gland secretes the thyroid hormone, which plays an important role in the growth of the body. The thyroid is butterfly shaped, and located at the bottom of the neck. Two important hormones produced by the thyroid gland are thyroxine and triidothyronine. Both of these hormones help the body grow after birth, and they also aid tissues increase their oxygen use within these tissues. The thyroid gland secretes another hormone that plays a part in skeletal growth called thyrocalcitonin. “It decreases circulating calcium by inhibiting bone resorption and by promoting calcium deposition in the bones,” Haywood and Getchell (2005) state.

According to Ditkoff and Gerfo (2000), the thyroid gland affects almost every organ system including the brain, heart, intestines, and skin. The thyroid hormone, which is made by the thyroid gland, acts as a source of energy for the human body. Without the thyroid hormone in the body, the body’s metabolism slows down and the body feels tired. The body can begin to gain weight, have cold and dry skin, and even have a hard time concentrating. There are two types of thyroid conditions; hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism.

Hypothyroidism affects the human body if the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone for the body to function correctly. It is easily treatable, and most people can lead normal lives with treatment for the disease. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is a family history of it. Another risk factor is a problem with the production of the thyroid hormone, which can include a problem with the hormone being made, being released into the bloodstream, or being converted to a different form within the body. There is also a cause of hypothyroidism where an autoimmune inflammation of the thyroid slowly causes damage to the gland.

The most common inflammation to the thyroid gland is Hashimoto’s syndrome. The thyroid usually enlarges in size in patients with this syndrome, which is caused by cells becoming inflamed and thus destroying thyroid cells in the process. The results can leave long-term scarring on the thyroid. Tissue damage is ongoing with Hashimoto’s, which puts it into the chronic ailment category. Hashimoto’s syndrome is easy to diagnose with two blood tests that test for under active thyroid, and the specific cause of that under active thyroid.

Hyperthyroidism is easy to keep under control. It is most often treated with a drug called levothyroxine, according to Ditkoff and Gerfo (2000). The drug is inexpensive, safe, and effective. Most patients will need to take the drug for the rest of their lives in order to keep their body functioning properly. “As more of the gland comes under attack, there is less tissue left to supply the hormone. You have to increase dosage,” Dr. Paul Donahue (1986) explains in his column for the Chicago Sun Times. “Eventually, you will be able to settle on a dosage to achieve full correction of the thyroid problem." Dr. Paul Donahue also explains that neither diet, nor exercise, alters the course of Hashimoto's.

Hyperthyroidism is where the thyroid gland is overactive and releases too much thyroid hormone into the bloodstreams in the body. The most common symptoms include mild nervousness, weight loss, insomnia, and a fast heartbeat. Other symptoms can include excessive perspiration, increased frequency of bowel movements, infrequent menstrual cycles, and a weakness in the shoulders, hips, and thighs. Untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to osteoporosis, or the thinning of bones, in women. If the hyperthyroidism disease is properly diagnosed, most can be cured.

The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective (2005) states that Graves’ disease is the most common type of hypothyroidism disease. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune condition in which the patient’s own immune system turns against the thyroid gland. It is also known as diffuse toxic goiter. Radioactive iodine is the most common recommended permanent treatment, and most people can be cured with a single dose. You can also opt to have your thyroid surgically removed because the medication can’t be tolerated by your body or because you do not want to take the radioactive iodine. In the United States, thyroid conditions affect “nearly 30 million Americans, and yet more than half of them remain undiagnosed, “ Dr. Simona Scumpia (2006) warns. The disease is more common than diabetes or heart disease. Thyroid conditions can lead a person to develop other health problems, such as heart disease, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, and depression. Dr. Simona Scumpia, Medical Director of the Austin Thyroid and Endocrinology Center, explains: "Because the symptoms of thyroidism can be associated with commonly occurring conditions, it is extremely important that people who have the symptoms be checked with a test known as a TSH test.” The TSH test, or Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone test, is a simple blood test that measures the thyroid gland's condition.

My mother, Connie L. Gullion, suffers from Hashimoto’s syndrome. Connie was diagnosed with the disease in her mid 30’s. Connie’s doctor had her look at a list of symptoms and asked her to let him know which ones she was experiencing. Connie checked Ð'Ñ* of the list handed to her; increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, puffy face, high cholesterol level, unexplained weight gain, pain and stiffness in your joints, swelling in your knees, and excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding. The doctor was shocked at how many symptoms Connie had checked on the list. Both of Connie’s sisters, and her father, also suffer from the disease, which was another clue that Connie’s problems could involve a thyroid condition.

A simple blood test came with the results that had been expected; Connie had Hashimoto’s syndrome. Connie has experienced a lot of problems due to her thyroid condition. Connie has gained over 100 pounds because of her thyroid condition. When the weight gain first started, most of the weight was water weight. Connie would go into the hospital and have the water weight drained, but this is very painful to do. Connie must wear tight, constricting T.E.D hose socks to limit the amount of swelling in her legs and knees due to the excessive water weight. Connie also takes medicine daily that makes her body urinate hourly, in order to get more of the water out of her system.

Hashimoto’s syndrome is an individual constraint for Connie. Due to the excessive weight gain, Connie has experienced



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