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Your thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland found at the base of your throat, wrapped around your windpipe. Your thyroid gland is quite important to the overall function of the body. It is responsible for the production of several hormones, the most important of which are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). T3 and T4 are your very best friends, as they help the body's cells absorb oxygen, a process vital to life.
The thyroid is key link in the body's lines of communication. The brain releases its own chemical which advises the pituitary gland to release Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). Finally, TSH is the hormone which orders the thyroid to manufacture and release its own hormones.
Because the thyroid gland's processes are complicated, a thyroid blood test is usually necessary to firmly diagnose a thyroid problem. Two conditions are the most prevalent thyroid problems: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism– Patients with this condition are often tired with dry skin. They are also intolerant to cold and sometimes suffer from constipation. This condition is a result of insufficient amounts of thyroid hormones in the blood.
A blood test for hypothyroidism will measure T3 and T4, which, if hypothyroidism is found, are usually low. If the patient is in the early stages of the condition, however, T3 and T4 levels may still be normal, so TSH is measured as well. Since TSH is responsible for directing the thyroid to produce more hormones, it is typically elevated with hypothyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism- Patients with this condition often suffer from elevated heart rate, enlarged thyroid, tremors, unnaturally smooth skin, profuse sweating and thin hair. Hyperthyroidism is a result of excessive amounts of thyroid hormones in the blood, so when measured, T3 and T4 are usually elevated. Similar to the test for hypothyroidism, however, TSH is the key factor for detecting hyperthyroidism as well. Because the TSH level falls in an attempt to slow production of the thyroid hormones, TSH is usually low in cases of hyperthyroidism.