Thyroid disorders are disorders that affect your thyroid gland. Your thyroid gland is located in your neck and controls many of your bodily functions, such as metabolism and heart rate. In many thyroid disorders, your thyroid is either overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism). Often, thyroid disorders make the thyroid enlarge, which is called goiter.
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Hormonal disorders or endocrine disorders, including thyroid disorders, are illnesses that occur when the body releases too many or too few hormones. Hormones are chemicals messengers that are released into the bloodstream. Hormones send messages to cells throughout the body in order to regulate bodily functions, such as growth, metabolism, and sexual development. As a result, individuals with hormonal disorders experience a disruption in such bodily functions.
Thyroid disorders are among the most common medical conditions but, because their symptoms often appear gradually over time, they are commonly misdiagnosed. There are four main types of thyroid disease: hyperthyroidism or too much thyroid hormone; hypothyroidism or too little thyroid hormone; benign (non-cancerous) thyroid disease; and thyroid cancer.
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the base of the neck on both sides of the lower part of the voice box (larynx) and upper part of the wind pipe (trachea). The thyroid produces hormones, called thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which affect the body's metabolism and energy level. Thyroid hormone is also produced in response to thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH, also known as thyrotropin) secreted by the pituitary gland.
Release of thyroid hormones is controlled by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, both found deep inside the brain. One of the most important features of the endocrine system is its regulation (control) by negative feedback. This means that the glands that stimulate the release of a hormone (for example, the pituitary) from another gland (for example, the thyroid) are eventually shut off, in a sense, so that too much hormone is not produced.
Thyroid disorders affect some 4.5 million Americans. At least 600,000 of them have yet to be diagnosed.
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