Thyroid Gland - Role In Pysiological Functions of Body
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Thyroid Gland : It's Role In The Pysiological Functions of The Body

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 24 Jun 2014 - 09:39.

You may be of average height. You may be very short, or may be very tall and even unusually tall. The Thyroid has the last laugh.

The human thyroid gland to a large extent resembles a bowtie and is situated in the front of the neck below the windpipe (the larynx) and just above the collar bones (the clavicles). It has two lobes, one on each side and joined together at the middle by a band called the isthmus giving it the shape of a bowtie.

The thyroid is one amongst several endocrine glands, which produce hormones that control most of the physiological functions of the human body. The thyroid manufactures a hormone called thyroxin, which regulates the rate at which the body carries on its day-to-day functions. 

Diseases of the thyroid gland are as common as any other endocrine disorders affecting anyone anywhere in the world but mostly seen in the westerners. The most common diseases of thyroid are either due to over-activity or under-activity of the gland known as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism respectively.

In some cases the thyroid itself may be enlarged like in Grave’s disease or Goiters. Sometimes infection like in Hashimoto’s disease may make the gland bigger in size. Sometimes only a part of the gland may get enlarged like in nodules or lumps.

Diagnosis of a thyroid disorder is very important and is carried out by an endocrinologist who carefully conducts a physical examination of the neck to detect any change in shape and consistency and presence of any enlargement due to lump or nodules.

Physical findings need to be confirmed by pathological and radiological investigations. The first investigation always involves thyroid study to estimate the levels of the three components named T3, T4 and TSH and assess their values in comparison with known normal values.

An ultrasound test done by a qualified radiologist gives a lot of information about the size and shape and presence of any abnormalities. In cases where malignancy is suspected, a Radioactive Thyroid Scan, a CT or even an MRI may be necessary to pinpoint the accuracy of the diagnosis.

This is later confirmed by a simple test called FNAC (Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology) where a sample of the thyroid tissue is aspirated through a needle inserted into the suspected area of the gland under anesthesia (usually local) and the specimen studied for the presence of malignancy.

Treatment differs with the condition we are confronted with namely hypthyroidism, hyperthyroidism, goiter, and growths like lumps and nodules. In cases like hypothyroidism medical treatment is sufficient where the deficient hormone thyroxin is administered in the form of a pill for a prolonged length of time. Even in hyperthyroidism medical treatment is the choice.

However, in cases where the results of medical treatment are not too encouraging surgical removal might be the next choice. In case of thyroid lumps like Goiters treatment consists of administering thyroid hormone and the process is called “suppression therapy”.

The idea is to cause shrinkage of the tissue over time and then take recourse to surgical remedy if there is no appreciable decrease in the size. This type of trial and error method is acceptable because more often than not the lumps are benign. Surgery must be thought of when FNAC results are suggestive of a likely malignancy. 

Surgical procedure involves removal of the affected gland either part or whole under general anesthesia. The type of incision is extremely important particularly in young ladies for cosmetic reasons. Experienced surgeons use “Necklace Incision” and close it after removal of the thyroid in such a way that the necklace worn by them masks the narrowest scar mark on the neck. While the surgery is in progress the operating surgeon takes care to subject a sample from the growth for frozen biopsy where the results are made available in a very short time while the surgeon and his team take care of the patient on the operation table.

After surgery the surgeon applies a tiny drainage tube and leaves it in site for easy drainage of any collections from within, including pus due to infection if any. After surgery the patient might require postoperative replacement with regular use of thyroid hormone. If the growth is malignant the support includes chemotherapy and/or radiation. Most of the patients are likely to face low calcium levels after surgery and may require calcium supplements.

Thyroid surgery does not have complications in most cases. Minor complications, though rare, include hoarseness of voice, bleeding, and difficulty in swallowing and mild numbness of skin around the neck.


*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.