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Thyroid gland

2-minute read

The thyroid gland makes thyroxine, a hormone that helps to control the activity of all the cells in the body. Sometimes people can have problems with their thyroid gland being too active or not being active enough.

What does the thyroid gland do?

The thyroid is a soft bow-shaped gland which sits in the front of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple. It produces two main hormones: thyroxine and triiodothyronine. These hormones, particularly thyroxine, regulate your body’s:

  • energy levels
  • temperature
  • metabolism, which is how your body converts food into energy
  • heart rate
  • muscle tone.
illustration of the endocrine glands

What medical conditions are related to the thyroid gland?

Almost 1 in 6 Australians have a thyroid problem. The chance of having trouble with your thyroid becomes greater as you get older.

Sometimes people have problems with their thyroid being overactive and producing too much thyroxine (hyperthyroidism). This makes your body use energy too quickly.  Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • weight loss
  • fatigue
  • nervousness
  • sensitivity to heat.

In contrast, if your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones (hypothyroidism) your metabolism will reduce. This can cause weight gain or fatigue.

Your doctor will be able to diagnose these problems by performing a blood test to check for the levels of thyroxine and other related hormones in your body.

Fortunately, if you have a problem with your thyroid, many different treatments are available. They might involve medication and, in some cases, your doctor may recommend surgery.

More information

Learn more about the endocrine system and the different hormones released by the endocrine glands.

Last reviewed: December 2016

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