Norm and pathology in the thyroid gland

If there are problems with vision, the temperature rises without the action of an infection, heart problems are observed, weight falls or, on the contrary, weight suddenly increases, sweating has exhausted, the doctor will most likely assume that the thyroid gland is guilty and will be sent for examination. But why her? The thing is that it is this body that takes an active part in metabolic processes, regulates the main metabolism and affects thermoregulation. If the thyroid gland suffers from any pathologies, this invariably affects the work of almost all systems and tissues, and also affects the functioning of the nervous system.

What is the thyroid gland?

Along with many other organs (gonads, adrenal glands, etc.), the thyroid gland enters the endocrine system and obeys the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. They belong to the central regulatory bodies of this complex complex. The main goal of the endocrine system – due to the dosed production of hormones (including those produced by the thyroid gland), to maintain homeostasis of the internal environment and normal health, mood and activity of a person.

The organ itself is located superficially, under the skin, on the neck, at about the level of a special cartilage of the larynx – the thyroid, hence the name of the gland. Often it is associated with a butterfly, because of its structure. It has an isthmus and two symmetrical lobes, resembling this insect in shape. Normally, the thyroid gland is not visually noticeable and is practically not palpated by hands. If she suffers from various pathologies and because of this begins to grow, then she can soon reach a considerable size, leading to the formation of goiter (a round, convex formation on the neck with sizes up to 10-15 cm or more).

The gland is complex, has many small vesicles in the thickness of the connective tissue that produce hormones. In addition, it is plentifully supplied with blood and braided by a network of lymphatic capillaries and nerve fibers. This structure allows her to actively synthesize and quickly deliver portions of hormones to the plasma under the control of incoming pulses.

The thyroid gland is tuned to produce thyroid hormones, which include T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). These substances actively regulate the production of proteins in the human body, the synthesis of thermal energy, enhance the metabolism of fats, and help in the supply of sugars to cells. In addition, these substances affect the functioning of the heart, digestive system and the provision of oxygen through the lungs.

In addition to the main thyroid hormones, calcitonin is also produced by special areas inside the thyroid gland , which has the property of lowering the level of calcium ions in the blood plasma.  

Norm and enlargement of the thyroid gland

It is important to correctly evaluate the size of the organ. If we talk about such a concept as the norm of the thyroid gland, then it should not be visible visually and not accessible for palpation. With the development of endocrinology as a science, various options have been proposed for classifying the size of the gland according to palpation. Today, the assessment of the state of the gland during palpation is largely subjective. The most optimal classification of the thyroid gland norm and its increase is proposed. The body is estimated approximately, the resulting assessment requires clarification according to ultrasound data. This is due to the fact that often even an enlarged gland in young people with developed muscles or in fat people with a developed subcutaneous fat layer is not easy to test. 

So, if this is the zero stage, that is, the norm of the thyroid gland, the organ is felt during examination, but the size of each of its lobes does not exceed the phalanx on the little finger of the subject. At the first degree, when the gland is enlarged, the lobes are larger than the phalanx, the gland is actively palpated and can be visually noticeable. At the 2nd degree, the organ is quite actively palpated and visually visible during a superficial examination.

If a specialist has found any deviations in the size of the organ, today one of the first research methods is ultrasound of the thyroid gland in combination with the determination of hormonal status.

Thyroid ultrasound

Preventive examinations or prescribed by a doctor as part of a diagnostic examination of ultrasound of the thyroid gland is carried out in almost any polyclinics and diagnostic centers equipped with devices for ultrasound examination. This method is simple and painless, it does not require any preparation from the patient, it does not undergo skin punctures and any invasive manipulations, and the information obtained during its implementation gives an understanding of the structure and partially the functioning of the organ.

When performing an ultrasound scan of the thyroid gland, a specialist determines the size of the lobes and isthmus, as well as the volume of the organ, looks at the structure of tissues, the presence of cysts, tumors, and other pathological formations in them. According to the measurements, the total volume of the gland is determined, which in a man reaches 25 ml, and in a woman – 18 ml. Exceeding these sizes will be a sign of an increase in glandular tissue, that is, it is necessary to look for the cause of this condition.

Thyroid disease

It is important to know that different degrees of increase in gland size can have different degrees of its activity. So, even with a significant volume of the organ itself, it may not change its functions – this condition is called euthyroidism. At the same time, even not enlarged iron (or a slight excess of volume) can cause thyrotoxicosis due to the production of a large number of hormones. So, in functional terms, three groups of thyroid diseases can be distinguished:

  • Pathologies accompanied by euthyroidism (the amount of hormones is normal),
  • Pathologies accompanied by increased production of hormones (this is a state of hyperthyroidism and its extreme degree – thyrotoxicosis),
  • Pathologies that lead to a decrease in hormone levels (hypothyroidism condition).

Hypothyroidism, thyroiditis and other pathologies

However, the classification of gland pathologies is not limited to this list. Today, numerous thyroid diseases of an inflammatory, tumor, deficient, and other nature are known. So, congenital and acquired throughout life pathologies are distinguished by the time of occurrence, this is especially true for hypothyroidism.

You can also highlight:

  • Congenital malformations and abnormalities in the development of the gland (both with a violation of its function, and without it).
  • Various types of goiter (endemic, which occurs due to lack of iodine, as well as sporadic, if iodine is enough).
  • Traumatic lesions of the gland (open and closed type).
  • Organ neoplasms (cysts, benign and cancerous tumors).
  • Inflammatory and autoimmune processes (thyroiditis).
  • Diffuse toxic goiter (otherwise this condition is usually called thyrotoxicosis).
  • Decreased thyroid function (myxedema, hypothyroidism). 

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