The THYROID GLAND is a butterfly-shaped gland in the throat. It is one of the endocrine glands that produce hormones. Thyroid hormones control the speed of many processes in the body. These include the rate at which you burn calories and your heart rate. All of these actions are part of your body's metabolism. To diagnose thyroid disease, doctors use medical history, physical exams, and thyroid tests. Sometimes I even use a biopsy. Treatment depends on the problem but may include medication, radioactive iodine therapy, or thyroid surgery. Just as it communicates with other organs through the hormone that produces the thyroid gland, the pituitary gland in the brain communicates through the hormone that produces the thyroid gland: thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH. When the pituitary gland detects that the thyroid hormone level is too low, it releases more TSH to force the thyroid gland to work. When the thyroid gland is stimulated by TSH, it produces thyroid hormones, particularly thyroxine (T4) and a smaller proportion of triiodothyronine (T3). Eventually, T4 becomes T3, an "active" form that is taken up by receptors on body cells. Women of all ages are more likely than men to have low thyroid hormone levels. However, many of their symptoms are explained by other conditions or are reversed by aging.
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