Thyroid gland - an organ resembling a butterfly. How do we know it’s healthy?

Article

05. 04. 2023

The thyroid gland is one of the most beautiful organs in the human body - in structure it resembles a butterfly. It is also one of the most important organs in our body. If it starts to malfunction, it can have very severe consequences. Symptoms of a malfunctioning thyroid gland can be manifold and they develop very slowly. In the Czech Republic, more than 600,000 people are being treated for a diagnosis related to the thyorid, and tens of thousands more are completely unaware of it. Women are more likely to develop thyroid disease than men, with up to 20% of women aged 50 suffering from hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). This organ also plays an important role in relation to pregnancy and fetal development.

The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck, just below our jaw. Although it weighs only 25 to 40 grams, it has an irreplaceable job in our metabolism and hormone production. "The thyroid is an endocrine gland that produces important hormones. These are released into the bloodstream and contribute to the proper functioning of the metabolism, influence thermoregulation and, last but definitely not least, the heart rate. They are also essential for the proper functioning of other organs such as the heart, brain, intestine or muscles," says Karolína Drbalová, MD, endocrinologist at Canadian Medical.

How to recognise early symptoms

There are many signs that something may be wrong with the thyroid. If the thyroid gland produces too many hormones, it's termed an overactive thyroid "Typical of hyperthyroidism is goitre, i.e. an enlarged thyroid gland. Symptoms include lack of concentration, irritability and insomnia to name some examples. We often observe trembling of the hands, diarrhoea or a faster heart rate called palpitations. In women, we may also see disturbances in the menstrual cycle. If, on the other hand, the thyroid gland is not working sufficiently, it usually manifests in fatigue, coldness, depressed mood, joint pain, dry skin and constipation. The cause is often hereditary and autoimmune, but it can also occur after radiation to the throat or when there is a lack of iodine in the body," explains Karolína Drbalová, MD.

The risk of thyroid disease increases during pregnancy

Thyroid disease during pregnancy is particular because hormones have a big influence on the development of the fetus. They are involved in the health of the placenta, but also in the development of the child's nervous system while in the womb. Moreover, during the first trimester, the baby is dependent on the mother's hormones, as it does not yet have its own thyroid gland capable of producing hormones. With reduced maternal thyroid function, there is a higher risk of miscarriage or premature birth.

Testing for thyroiditis 

Analyzing the family history is key. The doctor is interested in whether any relatives are already being treated for thyroid problems. The patient should undergo an ultrasound and possibly a thyroid tissue sample. Laboratory tests are also very important. Women are treated for thyroid diseases 8 times more frequently than men and therefore neglecting preventive care is highly inadvisable. 

The Women's Health laboratory package offered by EUC Laboratories gives our female patients a comprehensive overview of the metabolic processes in their bodies. From the blood sample taken, they will get objective information about the state of thyroid hormones and the function of individual organs. Further examinations are carried out from urine and stool samples.

The examination is simple, it is carried out on the basis of a blood sample, which is recommended to be taken on an empty stomach in the morning. Just before the collection, the patient should drink a quarter of a litre of water or unsweetened tea. A urine and stool sample should also be brought on the day of the collection. Results are available within one week.

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