What is the thyroid gland?

The thyroid gland is an organ that is considered to be part of the endocrine system. The endocrine system is made up of different glands that are located in different parts of the body. These glands produce chemical compounds called hormones that are secreted into the bloodstream. Hormones travel to different organs and tissues throughout the body, exerting actions that help to regulate the body's metabolism, chemical balance, and reproductive function. Other glands that are considered to be part of the endocrine system include the pituitary gland, the parathyroid glands, the adrenal glands, the ovaries, the testicles, and the pancreas.

Where is it located?

The thyroid gland is located in the lower front part of the neck, just below the Adam's apple and above the top of the breastbone. It is made up of two lobes identified as the right lobe and the left lobe. These right lobe and the left lobe are connected by a narrow band of tissue called the isthmus. A thin band of tissue called the pyramidal lobe may extend upward from the isthmus. The thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly with each lobe representing one of the wings. It wraps around the larynx and trachea that pass through the front of the neck. The lobes of the thyroid gland are tucked behind the angled muscles that connect to the top edge of the breastbone. It is usually difficult to see the outline of the thyroid gland beneath the skin, though it may become more apparent if the lobes become enlarged.

What does it do?

The thyroid gland produces, stores, and secretes thyroid hormone.