wOmics | What is the thyroid?

The thyroid – the body's largest endocrine gland, is located below the thyroid cartilage of the neck and along the front of the windpipe. The name "thyroid” comes from the Greek word for “shield” for its shape, which also resembles a butterfly. The thyroid of a medium-sized human weighs about 14-18 grams (for women) and 16-20 grams (for men), which is like that of three one-dollar coins.

Structure of the thyroid: the thyroid consists of two side lobes, which are connected by isthmus in the middle.

Adjacent important structures: there are many important structures adjacent to the thyroid gland.

(1) Parathyroid glands: the parathyroid glands, which are four small glands sitting posterior to the thyroid gland, control the calcium levels in the blood. When all four parathyroid glands are impaired or removed, the calcium levels in the blood would drop drastically, which would require calcium and vitamin D intake.

(2) Recurrent laryngeal nerves: Recurrent laryngeal nerves are a mixed nerve that controls laryngeal muscles and vocal cords. Recurrent laryngeal nerve damage is one of the common major complications of thyroid, parathyroid or neck surgery. Its reported incidence varies greatly across the world, ranging from 3% to 10% generally. Damage of one side can result in temporary or even permanent hoarseness. Damage on both sides can cause loss of sound and difficulty in breathing, and in severe cases, even asphyxia (suffocation).

What the thyroid does: the thyroid can control the rate at which our body uses energy, produce proteins, and regulate the body's sensitivity to other hormones. These functions are based on the production of thyroxines, which also help regulate the metabolism and growth rate of various tissues and organs and is involved in many other systems of the body.

Source: Thyroid Animation-Columbia University Department of Surgery

The thyroid – the body's largest endocrine gland, is located below the thyroid cartilage of the neck and along the front of the windpipe. The name "thyroid” comes from the Greek word for “shield” for its shape, which also resembles a butterfly. The thyroid of a medium-sized human weighs about 14-18 grams (for women) and 16-20 grams (for men), which is like that of three one-dollar coins.

Structure of the thyroid: the thyroid consists of two side lobes, which are connected by isthmus in the middle.

Adjacent important structures: there are many important structures adjacent to the thyroid gland.

(1) Parathyroid glands: the parathyroid glands, which are four small glands sitting posterior to the thyroid gland, control the calcium levels in the blood. When all four parathyroid glands are impaired or removed, the calcium levels in the blood would drop drastically, which would require calcium and vitamin D intake.

(2) Recurrent laryngeal nerves: Recurrent laryngeal nerves are a mixed nerve that controls laryngeal muscles and vocal cords. Recurrent laryngeal nerve damage is one of the common major complications of thyroid, parathyroid or neck surgery. Its reported incidence varies greatly across the world, ranging from 3% to 10% generally. Damage of one side can result in temporary or even permanent hoarseness. Damage on both sides can cause loss of sound and difficulty in breathing, and in severe cases, even asphyxia (suffocation).

What the thyroid does: the thyroid can control the rate at which our body uses energy, produce proteins, and regulate the body's sensitivity to other hormones. These functions are based on the production of thyroxines, which also help regulate the metabolism and growth rate of various tissues and organs and is involved in many other systems of the body.

Source: Thyroid Animation-Columbia University Department of Surgery

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