What is the thyroid?

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ and is composed of two cone-like lobes or wings, lobus dexter (right lobe) and lobus sinister (left lobe), connected via the isthmus. The organ is situated on the anterior side of the neck, lying against and around the larynx and trachea, reaching posteriorly the oesophagus and carotid sheath.

The thyroid gland controls how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins, and controls how sensitive the body is to other hormones. It participates in these processes by producing thyroid hormones, the principal ones being triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine which can sometimes be referred to as tetraiodothyronine (T4). These hormones regulate the rate of metabolism and affect the growth and rate of function of many other systems in the body. T3 and T4 are synthesized from both iodine and tyrosine. The thyroid also produces calcitonin, which plays a role in calcium homeostasis. Hormonal output from the thyroid is regulated by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) produced by the anterior pituitary, which itself is regulated by thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) produced by the hypothalamus.

The most common problems of the thyroid gland consist of an overactive thyroid gland, referred to as hyperthyroidism, and an underactive thyroid gland, referred to as hypothyroidism.