Terminology Related to Underactive Thyroid Disorders

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  • 0:00 Thyroid Gland
  • 0:45 Goiter
  • 1:55 Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
  • 2:50 Cretinism & Myxedema
  • 3:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

When your thyroid gland is not working properly, it can produce fewer hormones than you need for good health. This underactivity can lead to conditions such as hypothyroidism, a goiter, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, cretinisim or myxedema.

Thyroid Gland

Jane was feeling tired and was gaining weight even though her diet hadn't changed. She decided to visit her doctor to see what was going on.

After listening to Jane's symptoms, her doctor mentioned that her problems might be coming from the small, butterfly-shaped gland found at the base of the neck known as the thyroid gland. Jane's doctor explained that the thyroid gland produces hormones. When all is well, the thyroid makes just the right amount of hormones, and you feel good. But, sometimes problems develop with the gland. When this happens, the hormones coming out of the gland can be under-secreted, leaving your body out of balance. Let's follow along as Jane learns about disorders that could be making her thyroid less active.


Jane's doctor went on to explain that the thyroid secretes two important hormones that help regulate metabolism. They are called thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Do you see the word 'iodo' hidden inside the technical name for T3? You can use that hidden word to remind yourself that the thyroid hormones are made up of iodine atoms.

Iodine is found in certain food items, such as iodized table salt. Getting iodine from your diet is important because, without it, the thyroid hormones cannot be produced. This can lead to the development of a goiter, which is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. Goiters don't afflict too many people in the U.S., but in places where iodine is not commonly added to foods, you might see people walking around with a large lump peeking out from under the collar of their shirt. While this disorder couldn't be completely ruled out without testing, Jane didn't have the physical lump associated with a goiter, so her doctor discussed another possibility.

Hashimoto's thyroiditis

Hashimoto's thyroiditis is another condition that affects the thyroid. It's an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid. The damage to the thyroid leaves the person with hypothyroidism, which is the general term for an underactive thyroid that does not produce enough thyroid hormones.

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