Q: What is the thyroid gland? Why is it important?
Dr. Donnica: The thyroid gland is often referred to as "Gland
Central". It is the small, butterfly-shaped gland found just below the
Adam's apple in the throat area of the neck. It produces thyroid hormones,
which are critical for the proper function of nearly every organ and tissue
in the body, as well as the body's metabolism (energy production). It works
in close concert with hormonal "instructions" from the pituitary gland
(the "Master Gland") and the hypothalamus, a regulatory center on
the underside of the brain. The hypothalamus first sends a hormone signal to
the pituitary telling it to produce TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). TSH
travels through the blood to act on the thyroid gland, telling it to increase
production of thyroid hormones called T3 and T4. These then travel through
the blood to give different messages to the heart, liver, muscles, and other
organs. In addition, they signal the pituitary that the thyroid "got the
message" and that no more TSH is needed at that time.
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Created: 11/2/2000  - Donnica Moore, M.D.