Unless you are in the medical professional or perhaps a biology student, it is unlikely you will know too much about the thyroid gland. Unfortunately many people only discover that it exists and how significant it is in the human body when an illness affects it. The mysterious way it functions is another fascinating medical wonder. Anyone who wants to gain a better appreciation of how our bodies work should learn about the thyroid gland’s role in keeping us healthy.
The typical thyroid gland may weigh no more than 20 grams but its small size in no ways reflects its significance for our health. This little gland stores the hormones that control the human metabolism and affect the operation of every organ and tissue in the body. Due to its influence on the heart, kidneys, liver and other vital organs the thyroid gland is definitely high up on the vital bodily elements list, even though it lacks the high profile of the better known body parts.
Part of the mystery of the thyroid gland lies in how it is concealed within the body and its working are still not completely understood. It requires no great wisdom to know that you have a heart when you can hear it beat, or to recognize the existence of lungs when you breathe, but the thyroid gland performs its job silently and unobtrusively. For this reason it usually only comes to the attention of people should it cease to function properly.
Unfortunately thyroid diseases are quite common. Medical research shows that as many as one in eight Americans are likely to develop such an illness as some point in their lives. In the majority of cases they do not even know that they have any this sickness. In contrast to other diseases problems with the thyroid can continue unnoticed over a long period, if these issues are not diagnosed at an early stage they can lead to infertility, depression, heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses.
Another of the mysteries associated with the thyroid gland relates to the reason why women are so much more likely than men to develop hypothyroidism. Some research findings indicate that the probability of this occurring in women is as many as eight times higher. Researchers have not yet worked out the reason for this strange difference between the genders. Women also face additional difficulties recognizing their hypothyroidism symptoms. This illness often produces the same mood changes, exhaustion, disrupted sleep and other health issues they get during the menopause. This confusion could delay an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment; although more recently the doctors have become better at making an earlier hypothyroidism diagnosis.
Although the dangers thyroid disease poses should not be underestimated it is encouraging to note that in the majority of cases doctors can successfully treat it if it is detected in good time. One of the most common tests performed today requires measuring the thyroid stimulating hormone found in a blood sample. A too high level indicates that the thyroid gland is not working effectively whilst a too low level indicates an overactive thyroid gland. However, these test results are not invariably decisive. The possibility of the thyroid stimulating hormone count varying due to some other health issue with the patient must be taken into account. An abnormally high or low the thyroid stimulating hormone figure may correct itself once the other health issues are resolved.
Due to the challenges of detecting thyroid disease at an early stage some might argue that everyone needs to be tested, but the American College of Physicians only recommends testing for women over the age of 50. The United States Public Health Service Task Force also argues that testing should only be done on groups in the population who are at the highest risk.