THE THYROID GLAND is located just below the thyroid cartilage which covers the larynx.

It is composed of follicles, separate glands with no openings and is supplied richly with blood and lymph which enables adequate provision of iodine and the transport medium for the dispersal of thyroid hormones throughout the body.

Changes in activity and size occur during puberty, pregnancy, stress and the menstrual cycle.

The measure of plasma-protein-bound iodine is the index of thyroid function.

Release of thyroid hormones increases the basal metabolic rate ie the rate at which we convert food to energy, rather than fat.

Thyroid hormones promote the building of new cells during growth periods, however, this is the reverse in hyperthyroid adults who are in a catabolic state which results in muscle break-down/loss.   The hormones also have much to do with glucose metabolism and the mobilization and oxidation of fatty acids and the break-down of cholesterol.

Low thyroid function – Hypothyroidism – is characterised by a fluidy thickening of the skin, especially below the eyes, and of the lips, fingers and legs.   Symptoms are:   low basal metabolic rate and associated weight gain, lethargy, mental slowness, cool and dry skin, low heart rate and blood pressure, hair loss and heavier menstrual flow.

Excessive thyroid function – Hyperthyroidism or Grave’s Disease – symptoms are:   the person becomes excitable, nervous, with increased pulse and basal metabolic rate, increased body temperature and intolerance to heat, weight loss, increased appetite, hand tremor and a bulging eyeball appearance.

THE THYROID GLAND also secretes a hormone called Calcitonin which lowers  blood Calcium levels by inhibiting bone resorption.

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