Endocrinology is a branch of internal medicine whose field of study deals with the endocrine system made up of glands which secretes different types of hormones directly into the bloodstreem to maintain homeostasis, in close connection with the nervous system.
Hormones are chemical mediators which travel to target tissue to generate a response, this way regulating many key human functions such as metabolism, development, tissue function, sleep and mood.
Among the many parts of endocrine system, the thyroid has been with no doubt one of the most studied for a long time, because of its many functions: it affects heart rate, cholesterol level, body weight, energy level, muscle strength, skin condition, vision, menstrual regularity, mental state and a host of other conditions.
This butterfly-shaped gland is regulated by the pituitary gland, which pilots thyroid hormone production using special pathways.
As thyroid hormones affect cellular mechanisms, help control how the body uses energy and how well cells, tissues and organs work, an underactive thyroid can cause a number of health problems, such as obesity, joint pain, infertility, heart disease and depression.
Despite being among the most prevalent ones in endocrinology, thyroid disorders are widely under-diagnosed and under-treated especially in developing countries.
Hypothyroidism, a condition in which the gland is less active, has been one of the most studied and frequently diagnosed diseases affecting the gland.
Common symptoms are: fatigue, hoarse voice, mood swings, difficulty swallowing, forgetfulness, intolerance to cold, dry, coarse skin and hair.
Women over 60, are more likely to suffer from hypothyroidism, with familiarity and genetics playing an important role as well.
Nowadays, diagnosis is easier as accurate thyroid function tests are available and treatment of hypothyroidism with synthetic thyroid hormones is usually safe and effective.
Oral formulations containing levothyroxine sodium for example have turned out to be effective in hypothyroidism of different origin, especially in case of pituitary TSH suppression.
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