The thyroid is a gland in the neck that helps control many of the body’s most important functions.
If your thyroid becomes overactive (hyperthyroidism), underactive (hypothyroidism), or cancerous, you could experience a range of health problems.
Once diagnosed, however, thyroid problems can usually be treated effectively.
What is the thyroid?
The thyroid is a gland in the neck, near the base of the throat.
The thyroid gland makes hormones that help control many of the body’s metabolic processes, such as heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight.
What type of thyroid problems are there?
The main types of thyroid problems are:
- Hyperthyroidism — is when the thyroid is overactive and makes too much thyroid hormone. The most common symptoms of hyperthyroidism are feeling anxious or nervous, being unable to tolerate heat, having heart palpitations, feeling tired and losing weight, even if you’re eating the same amount of food. Hyperthyroidism is sometimes called thyrotoxicosis.
- Hypothyroidism — this is when the thyroid is underactive and does not make enough thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism can go on for years without showing any signs. When symptoms do appear, they can be quite varied and can include fatigue, being unable to tolerate the cold, constipation, dry skin, weight gain, poor memory and depression.
- Thyroid cancer — this is when some of the thyroid cells become cancerous. Thyroid cancer is more common in women than in men and is usually diagnosed in people’s fifties. It can usually be treated successfully.
Other thyroid problems include nodules that grow in the thyroid, an inflamed thyroid, and an enlarged thyroid (goitre). These conditions may lead to either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
Because the thyroid gland plays an important role in controlling many of the body’s functions, serious health problems can result when it is not functioning as it should. If you think you may have a thyroid problem, it’s important to see your doctor.
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Last reviewed: November 2018