The thyroid gland is a gland in your neck which produces a hormone called Thyroxine.
Thyroxine is a hormone which helps to regulate the body's metabolism.
Thyroid glands are prone to a variety of problems:
-The gland can be overactive
-The gland can be underactive
-The gland can increase in size
-The gland can develop nodules
These problems are not mutually exclusive and therefore individuals can have a gland which is both large and overactive or indeed large and underactive.
An enlarged gland can cause problems by causing a sense of pressure within the neck or may be noticed by a friend commenting on a symptomless swelling.
An overactive thyroid gland tends to make individuals lose weight, to be aware that their heart is racing, to feel hot and sweaty, or to feel tremulous.
An underactive thyroid gland may allow individuals to put on weight, to feel rather sluggish and lacking in energy; although these symptoms can also be caused by other factors.
The assessment of the thyroid will usually require a blood test and sometimes an ultrasound or specialist scanning.
Treatment for an overactive thyroid gland is usually with one of two drugs initially; Carbimazole or Propylthiouracil. Surgery or Radioiodine both have their place in the treatment of an overactive gland and the appropriate treatment for a given individual may depend on several factors which would be discussed during a consultation.
An underactive thyroid requires treatment with Thyroxine, usually prescribed as Levothyroxine. The appropriate dose for any individual is achieved by assessing the response to an initial dose.
Appropriate links for further advice:
The British Thyroid Foundation
The British Thyroid Association
The Society for Endocrinology - Patient Information