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The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that site in the neck under the Adam's apple. It regulates the body's metabolism by sending thyroid hormone to the organs through the blood. Two conditions, an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) and an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) can result when the thyroid isn't working right.
An overactive thyroid gland generates too much thyroid hormone, which speeds up metabolism. Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
rapid heart rate
frequent bowel movements, even diarrhea
irritability and anxiety
The first line of treatment for an overactive thyroid gland is drug therapy. If that doesn't resolve the problem, a dose of radioactive iodine may fix the problem by destroying thyroid cells. Sometimes the treatment damages so much of the gland that it can't produce enough thyroid hormone and it becomes necessary to take thyroid hormone. Surgery to remove some of the thyroid gland can be an option when other treatments don't work or aren't advisable.
An underactive thyroid gland doesn't generate enough thyroid hormone. This condition, which slows metabolism, is increasingly common with age. It can also be caused by Hashimoto's disease, a condition in which the body's immune system attacks the thyroid gland, or by thyroiditis, an inflammation of the gland.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
Hypothyroidism is usually treated by taking thyroid hormone.