It’s hard to imagine something so small being so powerful or important. However, that’s exactly the case when it comes to the thyroid gland.
Your thyroid is only about 2 inches wide and tips the scales at about 20-60 grams. For perspective, a tennis ball weighs around 56-60 grams. Yet, despite its diminutive size, it touches every cell and organ in your body. But how?
Scott A. deVilleneuve, MD, performs thyroid surgery at Surgical Associates of North Texas in McKinney, Texas, on a regular basis. These procedures can remove some or all of the thyroid gland to address different forms of thyroid disease, including growths and cancer.
If you need thyroid surgery, here’s what you need to know about this tiny gland and its role in your body.
It all comes down to hormones
Your thyroid gland uses iodine to make and release two specific hormones into your bloodstream: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones reach every cell and organ in your body, helping to regulate numerous physiological functions, such as:
- Body temperature
- Heart rate
- Muscle control and strength
- Central nervous system
- Energy expenditure and body weight
- Bone loss
- Menstrual cycles
Thyroid cells are the only ones in your entire body that can absorb iodine and make these crucial hormones required for growth, development, and metabolism. And it all starts deep inside your brain.
How your thyroid makes hormones
Your thyroid is just one part of a larger network in your body known as the endocrine system. This complex messaging system contains multiple glands all over your body that work together, making and secreting hormones so your body knows what to do and when. And the pituitary gland runs the entire show.
The thyroid may be small, but your pituitary gland is only the size of a pea. It sits within its own little chamber — the sella turcica — at the base of your brain. It has the crucial role of monitoring all of the hormones in your body and telling them when the other glands in your endocrine system should release more to keep everything functioning properly.
When your pituitary gland wants your thyroid to get to work, it releases thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). In response, your thyroid gland starts making and releasing more T3 and T4, and they enter cells in your body whenever needed. But it doesn’t stop there.
As thyroid hormones enter your bloodstream, the T3 slows TSH production within the pituitary gland. This crucial step creates an efficient feedback loop that keeps thyroid production in an optimal range. However, things can still go awry.
When thyroid problems arise
The very complexity of the thyroid and endocrine system creates a lot of opportunity for things to go wrong. And, because of the importance of thyroid hormones, disorders can cause uncomfortable and potentially serious issues.
Common types of thyroid disorders include:
- Under or overactive thyroid
- Enlarged thyroid, or goiter
- Growths or nodules
However, numerous treatments are available to address thyroid disorders, ranging from medication to surgery.
If you need part or all of your thyroid removed, Dr. deVilleneuve uses minimally invasive, endoscopic techniques whenever possible. You can usually go home after your surgery and return to normal activity within about 10 days.
Because of the important role thyroid hormones play in your body, you typically need to take hormone-replacement medications indefinitely after having surgery to maintain healthy thyroid hormone levels.
Do you need thyroid surgery? Dr. deVilleneuve can give you a thorough evaluation and discuss your next steps. To learn more, call 972-947-2264 or book an appointment online with Surgical Associates of North Texas today.