Definition

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a condition occurs when your thyroid is not making enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck. It makes hormones, tetraiodothyronine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) that control the way your body uses energy.

How common is hypothyroidism?

People of any age can get hypothyroidism, but older adults are more likely to get it. Women age 60 and older have the highest risk. You are more likely to get the disease if it runs in your family.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

Depending on the severity of the deficiency of the hormone level in your body, the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism may vary. But generally, any problems you have tend to develop slowly, often over a number of years.

At first, you may barely notice the symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as fatigue and weight gain, or you may simply attribute them to getting older. But as your metabolism continues to slow, you may develop more-obvious signs and symptoms. Hypothyroidism signs and symptom may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
  • Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
  • Thinning hair
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory

When hypothyroidism is not treated, the signs and symptoms can gradually become more severe. Constant stimulation of your thyroid gland to release more hormones may lead to an enlarged thyroid (goiter). In addition, you may become more forgetful, your thought processes may slow, or you may feel depressed.

In some advanced hypothyroidism, known as myxedema, is rare, but when it occurs it can be life-threatening. Signs and symptoms include low blood pressure, decreased breathing, decreased body temperature, unresponsiveness and even coma. In extreme cases, myxedema can be fatal.

When should I see my doctor?

Early diagnosis and treatment can stop this condition from worsening and prevent another medical emergency, so talk to your doctor as soon as possible to prevent this serious condition.

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes hypothyroidism?

When your thyroid produces hormones ineffectively, the balance of chemical reactions in your body can be upset. There can be a number of causes, including autoimmune disease, treatment for hyperthyroidism, radiation therapy, thyroid surgery and certain medications.

Hormones are produced by the thyroid gland, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), have an enormous influence on your health, affecting all aspects of your metabolism. They maintain the rate at which your body uses fats and carbohydrates, help control your body temperature, influence your heart rate, and help regulate the production of proteins.

Hypothyroidism results when the thyroid gland fails to produce enough hormones. Hypothyroidism may be due to a number of factors, including:

  • Autoimmune disease

People who develop a particular inflammatory disorder known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis have the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Autoimmune disorders occur when your immune system produces antibodies that attack your own tissues. Sometimes this process involves your thyroid gland

  • Treatment for hyperthyroidism

People who produce too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) are often treated with radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications to reduce and normalize their thyroid function. However, in some cases, treatment of hyperthyroidism can result in permanent hypothyroidism.

  • Thyroid surgery

Removing all or a large portion of your thyroid gland can diminish or halt hormone production. In that case, you will need to take thyroid hormone for life.

  • Radiation therapy

Radiation used to treat cancers of the head and neck can affect your thyroid gland and may lead to hypothyroidism.

  • Medications

A number of medications can play a role in hypothyroidism. One such medication is lithium, which is used to treat certain psychiatric disorders.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for hypothyroidism?

You may have higher risks for this condition if you are experiencing these following conditions:

  • Are a woman older than age 60
  • Have an autoimmune disease
  • Have a family history of thyroid disease
  • Have other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, a chronic inflammatory condition
  • Have been treated with radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications
  • Received radiation to your neck or upper chest
  • Have had thyroid surgery (partial thyroidectomy)
  • Have been pregnant or delivered a baby within the past six months

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. Blood tests are always used to confirm a diagnosis of hypothyroidism or mild hypothyroidism. The tests used most often are:

  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test.
  • Thyroxine (T4) measurement.

If the above tests are not normal, antithyroid antibody tests may determine whether you have the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, in which the body’s defense system attacks the thyroid gland.

A computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the hypothalamus or pituitary gland may be done to look for any changes in these areas of the brain.

How is hypothyroidism treated?

It is believed that standard treatment for hypothyroidism involves daily use of the synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine. This oral medication restores adequate hormone levels, reversing the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism.

To determine the right dosage of levothyroxine initially, your doctor generally checks your level of TSH after two to three months. Excessive amounts of the hormone can cause side effects, such as:

  • Increased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shakiness

If you have coronary artery disease or severe hypothyroidism, your doctor may start treatment with a smaller amount of medication and gradually increase the dosage. Progressive hormone replacement allows your heart to adjust to the increase in metabolism.Certain medications, supplements and even some foods may affect your ability to absorb levothyroxine. Talk to your doctor if you eat large amounts of soy products or a high-fiber diet or you take other medications, such as:

  • Iron supplements or multivitamins that contain iron
  • Cholestyramine
  • Aluminum hydroxide, which is found in some antacids
  • Calcium supplements

If you have subclinical hypothyroidism, discuss treatment with your doctor. For a relatively mild increase in TSH, you probably won’t benefit from thyroid hormone therapy, and treatment could even be harmful. On the other hand, for a higher TSH level, thyroid hormones may improve your cholesterol level, the pumping ability of your heart and your energy level.

Although most doctors recommend synthetic thyroxine, natural extracts containing thyroid hormone derived from the thyroid glands of pigs are available.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage hypothyroidism?

Although you can’t prevent hypothyroidism, you can watch for signs of the disease so it can be treated promptly. Some people who are at high risk for having hypothyroidism but do not have symptoms can be tested to see whether they have mild, or subclinical, hypothyroidism

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: June 28, 2017 | Last Modified: June 28, 2017

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