The gland in the selected image is the thyroid gland which can be found at the base of the neck. Its primary function is the secretion of hormones that are responsible for metabolism, and the use of energy by the body. These hormones work to regulate important body functions such as the heart rate, breathing, peripheral nervous systems, menstrual cycles, body weight, cholesterol levels, muscle strength, and body temperature (Brady, 2019). It can be identified by its butterfly-like shape and its position at the front of the throat, underneath the thyroid cartilage. It consists of two sides which are called lobes and are positioned on either side of the windpipe. They are connected by a piece of tissue called the isthmus. There are cases in which individuals may not have an isthmus and therefore have two separate thyroid lobes.
Because the thyroid gland belongs to the endocrine system, it similarly produces, stores, and releases hormones throughout the bloodstream. The gland utilizes iodine from food consumption to create its two primary hormones which are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). The balance of these two hormones is maintained by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus creates and releases the TSH-releasing hormone which notifies the pituitary to instruct the thyroid gland to increase the production of T3 and T4. It does so by changing the rates at which the thyroid stimulating hormone, or TSH, is released. Essentially, in the case that T3 or T4 production is too high, less TSH is released and vice versa.
Thyroid nodules are fluid-filled lumps that may form on the thyroid due to a number of causes and may sometimes be cancerous. Nodules may secrete excessive thyroxine, or T4, which can result in the overproduction of thyroid-related hormones, or hyperthyroidism. Symptoms of this can include increased sweating, tremors, nervousness, irregular weight loss, and a rapid heartbeat. Additional complications may arise if the nodule is cancerous, though nodules are more often non-cancerous.
The identified patient is experiencing an increased release of the cortisol hormone which is secreted from the adrenal glands. The aforementioned glands, which may also be called the suprarenal glands, are triangular-shaped and small, located above the kidneys. Their primary functions include the production of hormones that assists metabolism, blood pressure, the immune system, stress responses, and further essential mechanisms. Cortisol is one of the hormones produced by the glands and is classified as a steroid hormone and then released into the bloodstream.
Outside of cortisol production, the adrenal glands also produce aldosterone, adrenaline, and, DHEA and androgenic steroids. Aldosterone works to maintain the blood pressure of a body, including the concentration of sodium and potassium. Essentially, this hormone observes and maintains a viable blood pH level. Adrenaline is a hormone that becomes activated in instances of flight or fight and threat perception. DHEA and androgenic steroids are weak male hormones that may be transformed into estrogens or androgens.
In its normal functions, the gland produces cortisol to respond to stress and is present when a person senses danger, to increase the metabolism of glucose, the need to reduce inflammation, and control blood pressure. Cortisol may also be released in relation to flight or fight situations and is a natural reaction to the perception of threat. A healthy adrenal gland regulates the levels of cortisol very strictly as the balance of the hormone is essential to an individual’s well-being.
Cortisol may stimulate the metabolism of fat and carbohydrates within the body by providing surges of energy. Simultaneously, it may increase an individual’s appetite and cravings for fatty, sweet, or salty foods. Excess of cortisol also contributes to lower production of testosterone and a decline in muscle mass and a slower burn of calories. As such, increased levels of cortisol are very likely to contribute to the symptoms experienced by the patient which are focused on weight gain, muscle loss, and inadequate burning of fat.
Brady, B. (2019). Thyroid gland: Overview. Endocrine Web.