wOmics | How does the thyroid manage metabolism?

Inside your neck, there is a small organ called the thyroid gland that governs the immense energy within your body. It works by sending hormone signals to every cell to ensure their proper functioning.

The thyroid gland is divided into many lobules by capsule, each of which contains 20 to 40 thyroid follicles that store hormones ready to be sent to your bloodstream. 

The two most important hormones produced by the thyroid are thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).

The role of thyroid hormones

As messengers, thyroid hormones work to direct when each cell in the body consumes oxygen and nutrients. This sustains the body's metabolism, the process by which our cells supply us with energy through a series of processes.

Hormones from the thyroid make the heart work more efficiently and make our cells break down nutrients faster.

When we need more energy, the thyroid would send hormones to speed up metabolism.

Ultimately, this process ensures enough energy for our bodies to grow and develop and to maintain normal functioning.

Pituitary Gland

The pituitary gland controls the thyroid gland, which sits deep in the brain. It monitors the thyroid gland to ensure that the thyroid gland knows when to send messengers.

It is able to sense whether the amount of thyroid hormones in the blood is too much or too less, and then send regulatory signals by secreting thyroid-stimulating hormones.

Thyroid Diseases

However, even with this powerful control system, problems arise sometimes. First, when the thyroid sends too many hormones, it can cause hyperthyroidism. This means that cells receive too many signals to consume nutrients and oxygen. This overaction would result in abnormally accelerated metabolism.

A person with hyperthyroidism may not only suffer from palpitations, persistent hunger and rapid weight loss, but also sensitivity to heat, sweating, anxiety and difficulty falling asleep. Still, some patients may have symptoms such as exophthalmos (protruding eyeballs), red or swollen eyelids, vision loss, and myxedema (mucous edema) of the skin.

The opposite to hyperthyroidism is called hypothyroidism, which means that the thyroid gland sends too few hormones. This means that the cells in the body do not receive enough messengers, which eventually causes slow growth and reduced metabolism of the cells.

People with hypothyroidism exhibit symptoms such as weight gain, unresponsiveness, memory loss, and are also prone to fear of cold, swollen joints, weak and pained muscles, dizziness, anxiety, and depression. In severe cases, they may even be struck by coma, shock, heart and kidney failure. Fortunately, with medical treatment we are able to control the thyroid’s activity and bring our body back to a status of stable metabolism.

Takeaway

For an organ with such a small size, the thyroid gland wields amazing power. Meanwhile, while a healthy thyroid gland manages our cells so effectively, we can hardly feel it's presence when it is functioning properly.

Inside your neck, there is a small organ called the thyroid gland that governs the immense energy within your body. It works by sending hormone signals to every cell to ensure their proper functioning.

The thyroid gland is divided into many lobules by capsule, each of which contains 20 to 40 thyroid follicles that store hormones ready to be sent to your bloodstream. 

The two most important hormones produced by the thyroid are thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).

The role of thyroid hormones

As messengers, thyroid hormones work to direct when each cell in the body consumes oxygen and nutrients. This sustains the body's metabolism, the process by which our cells supply us with energy through a series of processes.

Hormones from the thyroid make the heart work more efficiently and make our cells break down nutrients faster.

When we need more energy, the thyroid would send hormones to speed up metabolism.

Ultimately, this process ensures enough energy for our bodies to grow and develop and to maintain normal functioning.

Pituitary Gland

The pituitary gland controls the thyroid gland, which sits deep in the brain. It monitors the thyroid gland to ensure that the thyroid gland knows when to send messengers.

It is able to sense whether the amount of thyroid hormones in the blood is too much or too less, and then send regulatory signals by secreting thyroid-stimulating hormones.

Thyroid Diseases

However, even with this powerful control system, problems arise sometimes. First, when the thyroid sends too many hormones, it can cause hyperthyroidism. This means that cells receive too many signals to consume nutrients and oxygen. This overaction would result in abnormally accelerated metabolism.

A person with hyperthyroidism may not only suffer from palpitations, persistent hunger and rapid weight loss, but also sensitivity to heat, sweating, anxiety and difficulty falling asleep. Still, some patients may have symptoms such as exophthalmos (protruding eyeballs), red or swollen eyelids, vision loss, and myxedema (mucous edema) of the skin.

The opposite to hyperthyroidism is called hypothyroidism, which means that the thyroid gland sends too few hormones. This means that the cells in the body do not receive enough messengers, which eventually causes slow growth and reduced metabolism of the cells.

People with hypothyroidism exhibit symptoms such as weight gain, unresponsiveness, memory loss, and are also prone to fear of cold, swollen joints, weak and pained muscles, dizziness, anxiety, and depression. In severe cases, they may even be struck by coma, shock, heart and kidney failure. Fortunately, with medical treatment we are able to control the thyroid’s activity and bring our body back to a status of stable metabolism.

Takeaway

For an organ with such a small size, the thyroid gland wields amazing power. Meanwhile, while a healthy thyroid gland manages our cells so effectively, we can hardly feel it's presence when it is functioning properly.

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