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    The Tiny, Powerful Thyroid – Why It Matters

    The Tiny, Powerful Thyroid – Why It Matters

    Courtesy Photo | Located in the neck, the thyroid is “a tiny but important gland,” explained Army...... read more read more



    Story by Bernard Little 

    Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

    “Thyroid dysfunction affects many people and often goes undiagnosed, unrecognized and untreated,” stated Army Maj. (Dr.) Nicole Vietor, service chief of the Department of Endocrinology at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
    “Thyroid hormones act on nearly all the tissues in the body and disorders of this gland can have powerful impacts on health,” added Vietor, who also serves as associate program director of WRNMMC Endocrinology Fellowship, deputy endocrinology consultant to the Army Surgeon General, and associate professor of medicine at the Uniformed Services University.
    Located in the neck, the thyroid is “a tiny but important gland,” Vietor continued. While producing hormones that act on almost every part of the body, the thyroid is also responsible for regulating metabolism, as well as the health of the bones, heart, brain and muscles, she explained.
    Because of its importance in the body, January is annually observed as Thyroid Awareness Month.
    “There are a number of causes of thyroid dysfunction with the most common cause being autoimmune,” Vietor stated. “Auto-antibodies can affect thyroid function and lead to an inappropriate increase or decrease in hormone production. Other causes include iodine deficiency, inflammation, damage to the gland, or medication effect.”
    These can result in hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), and cancer.
    Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine (T-4), which speeds up the body’s metabolism causing unexpected weight loss and a rapid or irregular heartbeat, in addition to other symptoms. Other symptoms of increased thyroid dysfunction include anxiety, increased sweating, tremors, difficulty sleeping, mood changes, increased bowel movements, and eye dryness/pain/irritation. Goiter, swelling at the neck from an enlarged thyroid, is also a symptom of hyperthyroidism.
    Hypothyroidism happens when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough T-4 or its counterpart hormone T-3 (triiodothyronine). Early on, this condition may not present any symptoms, but left untreated it can lead to obesity, joint pain, infertility and heart disease. Other symptoms of decreased thyroid function are fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, skin changes, thinning hair, brittle nails and swelling.
    Vietor said there are often no symptoms of thyroid cancer. “Cancerous nodules are often found on physical examination or incidentally seen on imaging studies. Thyroid cancer can go undiagnosed and untreated. If you have a family history of thyroid cancer, history of neck irradiation, or feel a lump in your neck, it is important to talk with your doctor to determine if you have a concerning thyroid nodule.”
    “Treatment of low thyroid function is replacement of thyroid hormone with a medication called levothyroxine. Increased thyroid function can be treated with radioactive iodine, medications, or surgery to reduce the excess hormone levels. Thyroid cancer is treated with surgery and may require other treatments such as radioactive iodine,” Vietor explained.
    For more information about thyroid health, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites and



    Date Taken: 02.01.2022
    Date Posted: 02.01.2022 10:47
    Story ID: 413774
    Location: BETHESDA, MD, US

    Web Views: 129
    Downloads: 0