What is the thyroid gland, and why is it so important to us??

The thyroid gland, which sits in the front of your neck, is an endocrine gland, which means it produces hormones. It is with these vital hormones that the thyroid gland has effects all over the body. The thyroid gland regulates our metabolism (how we make and process energy from our food).

What are the common thyroid problems??

The most common issues are the overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism), or the underproduction (hypothyroidism).

  • Are you feeling revved up, hot, sweaty, anxious, or irritable??
  • Are you having difficulty sleeping (insomnia)?
  • Are you feeling like your heart is racing (tachycardia)?? 
  • Has your appetite changed?
  • Have you lost weight??
  • Do you have weak muscles??
  • Have you felt your body is trembling or shaking??

Above are some of the common symptoms of an overactive thyroid.

  • Are you feeling tired, more sensitive to the cold??
  • Have you developed constipation?
  • Is your skin dry, and is your face puffy or swollen??
  • Have you put on weight??
  • Have you sore or weak muscles??
  • Are you feeling very sluggish, is your memory not as good as it used to be?
  • Have you considered you could be depressed??

Above are the common symptoms of an under-active thyroid.

The good news is that the diagnosis of thyroid problems is usually straightforward once the possibility of the diagnosis has been raised.

Thyroid stimulating hormone can be measured (TSH). This hormone is produced by the pituitary gland, which is constantly monitoring how much thyroxine the thyroid gland is producing. If there is too much thyroxine being produced, TSH will usually decrease. If not enough thyroxine is being produced, TSH will usually increase. Our bodies are trying to keep the hormone levels in equilibrium, but sometimes, the body fails.

TSH is nearly always decreased in hyperthyroidism.

TSH is nearly always increased in hypothyroidism.

This is the basic thyroid test that is rebatable under Medicare.

A further blood test can be done and the thyroid hormones can be measured (T4 and T3 and occasionally reverse T3). These tests are only Medicare rebatable if the TSH reading is outside the normal range. There is some controversy regarding the ‘normal levels’ of TSH in the medical field.

However, the full thyroid test can always be done privately, regardless of these Medicare guidelines.

Dr Orla Teahan M.B. B.Ch. B.A.O. FRACGP qualified from Trinity College, Dublin in 1990.
In 1991 she moved to Australia with her Australian husband and son. After some travelling adventures and two more children she settled in Sydney where she completed her fellowship in General Practice and subsequently ran her own private practice in Newport for close to twenty years. Orla is particularly passionate about women’s health and improving mental health in families. Recently Orla moved to Canberra with her family and has had an enriching experience working in Aboriginal Health with a focus on mental health and trauma.

Learn more about Orla

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