The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland situated in the front of the neck. Its main function is to produce two hormones - thyroxine and triiodothyronine - which are crucial to the control of various bodily functions.
Should the thyroid malfunction, it can cause health problems that can affect your quality of life. Women are more susceptible than men to thyroid disorders. Thyroid hormone (TH) imbalances are usually related to autoimmune disorders - when healthy cells and tissues in your body are mistakenly attacked by your own immune system. It is not known why this happens, but there appears to be a genetic link.
Too little, too much?
When an underactive gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormones to adequately meet the body's needs, the condition is referred to as hypothyroidism. Conversely, in hyperthyroidism; an overactive thyroid gland results in the excessive production of thyroid hormones.
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are the two most common thyroid disorders in women between the age of 20 and 50, who are also five times more likely than men to develop thyroid disorders.
There are several causes of hypothyroidism, including autoimmune disease, treatment for hyperthyroidism, radiation therapy, thyroid surgery and certain medications. The most common cause is an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto's disease.
In 70% of the cases, hyperthyroidism results from an autoimmune disorder known as Graves' disease, a condition in which the body's own antibodies attack the thyroid. This causes it to produce too much of the hormone thyroxine, which speeds up the body's metabolism in turn.
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