Hypothyroidism is a health condition that occurs when the thyroid gland does not generate enough of thyroid hormone. Because the thyroid hormone’s primary function is to drive the body’s metabolism, it is logical that those with hypothyroidism may have symptoms linked with a sluggish metabolism. The thyroid gland is a tiny, butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of the neck. It secretes hormones that assist your body in regulating and using energy. Your thyroid gland is in charge of supplying energy to virtually every organ in your body.
Your thyroid gland regulates how fast your heart beats and how well your digestive system operates. Your body’s normal processes begin to slow down if you don’t have enough thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism, often known as underactive thyroid, affects women more commonly than men.
The condition of hypothyroidism could be discovered by your doctor during a routine blood test, or after symptoms appear. An early, mild form of the condition is referred to as subclinical hypothyroidism. If you have recently been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, you should know that treatment is typically easy, safe, and successful.
The majority of hypothyroidism treatments rely on artificial hormones to replace your low hormone levels. These hormones will replace what your body isn’t making on its own and aid in the restoration of your body’s proper functioning.
Signs and Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Each patient may have one or more of the common symptoms of hypothyroidism, which may vary depending on the degree of the thyroid hormone deficit, and the length of time the body has been in this deficit.
One of these symptoms may be your primary complaint, whereas another may not have that issue at all and be experiencing completely another symptom. The majority of people will experience a combination of these signs and symptoms. Some hypothyroidism individuals have no symptoms at all, or their symptoms are so faint that they go unrecognized.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor about them. You may also require the assistance of an endocrinologist.
The following are the most frequent indications and symptoms of hypothyroidism:
- Feeling tired (fatigue)
- Gaining weight or having a difficult time losing weight
- Hair that is coarse and dry
- Skin that is dry, rough, and pale
- Feelings of depression
- Hair loss
- Feeling cold or intolerant to cold weather (you are unable to withstand cold temperatures similar to those experienced by others)
- Muscle cramps and pains
- Poor memory
- Abnormal menstrual periods
- Reduced libido
What Causes Hypothyroidism?
The equilibrium of chemical processes in your body might be disrupted if your thyroid does not generate enough hormones. Autoimmune illness, hypothyroidism therapies, radiation therapy, thyroid surgery, and certain medicines are all possible causes.
Triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which are generated by the thyroid gland, have a huge influence on your health, impacting every part of your metabolism. These hormones also have an impact on how critical processes like body temperature and heart rate are controlled.
When the thyroid gland fails to generate adequate hormones, hypothyroidism develops. Hypothyroidism can be caused by a variety of things, including:
- Autoimmune illness. The most frequent cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease. When your immune system creates antibodies that attack your tissues, autoimmune diseases develop. Your thyroid gland is sometimes involved in this process.
Scientists aren’t sure why this happens, but it’s most likely due to a mix of variables, including your genes and a trigger in the environment. These antibodies wreak havoc on the thyroid’s capacity to generate hormones in any case.
- Over-response to hyperthyroidism treatment. Hyperthyroidism (the overproduction of thyroid hormone) is frequently treated with radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medicines. The objective of these therapies is to restore normal thyroid function. However, treating hyperthyroidism can occasionally result in excessive thyroid hormone production, resulting in lifelong hypothyroidism.
- Thyroid surgery. Removing all or a significant piece of your thyroid gland can reduce or stop hormone production. In such a scenario, you’ll have to take thyroid hormone for the rest of your life.
- Radiation treatment. Radiation used to treat head and neck malignancies might harm your thyroid gland and cause hypothyroidism.
- Medications. A variety of medicines can cause hypothyroidism. Lithium is one such drug that is used to treat some mental illnesses. If you’re taking medication, talk to your doctor about how it affects your thyroid.
One of the following conditions can cause hypothyroidism less frequently:
- Pituitary dysfunction. The inability of the pituitary gland to generate adequate thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is a very uncommon cause of hypothyroidism, generally due to a benign pituitary tumor.
- Pregnancy. During or after pregnancy, some women develop hypothyroidism (postpartum hypothyroidism), which is caused by antibodies against their thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism raises the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, and preeclampsia, a disease that causes a substantial increase in a woman’s blood pressure during the last three months of pregnancy if left untreated. It can also have a negative impact on the growing fetus.
- Congenital illness. Some newborns are born with a faulty thyroid gland or with no thyroid gland at all. The thyroid gland did not grow correctly in most cases for unknown reasons, although some children have a hereditary type of the disease. Infants with congenital hypothyroidism frequently seem normal at birth. This is one of the reasons why most states now mandate neonatal thyroid screening.
- Iodine deficiency. Iodine, a trace mineral found largely in seafood, seaweed, plants cultivated in iodine-rich soil, and iodized salt, is required for thyroid hormone synthesis. Too little iodine can cause hypothyroidism, whereas too much iodine can aggravate hypothyroidism in those who already have it.
A medical assessment (physical exam) and blood tests are the two major methods used to identify if you have hypothyroidism.
Your doctor will do a comprehensive physical exam as well as a medical history. They will look for physical symptoms of hypothyroidism such as:
- Slowed heart rate
- Dry skin
- Swelling in the neck
- Delayed reflexes.
In addition, your doctor will ask you to mention any symptoms you’ve been having, such as weariness, sadness, constipation, or persistent cold. You need to inform your doctor during this test if you have a known family history of thyroid problems.
Blood tests are the only method to confirm a hypothyroidism diagnosis with certainty. TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) testing determines how much TSH your pituitary gland produces:
- The pituitary gland will raise TSH to stimulate thyroid hormone production if your thyroid isn’t generating enough.
- TSH levels will be high if you have hypothyroidism since your body is attempting to promote greater thyroid hormone action.
- TSH levels will be below if you have hyperthyroidism since your body is attempting to limit excessive thyroid hormone production.
Hypothyroidism can also be diagnosed with thyroxine (T4) level test. T4 is one of the hormones that your thyroid produces directly. T4 and TSH tests are used combined to assess thyroid function.
Hypothyroidism is diagnosed when a low level of T4 is combined with a high level of TSH. Thyroid illness, on the other hand, comes in a variety of forms. Other thyroid function tests may be required to identify your problem appropriately.
What Treatments are Available for Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is often treated by supplementing the hormone that your thyroid no longer produces. This is usually done with the help of medicine. Levothyroxine is one of the most often prescribed medications. This medicine, when taken orally, raises the amount of thyroid hormone your body produces, balancing your levels.
Hypothyroidism is a treatable condition. You will, however, need to take medicine for the rest of your life to regulate the number of hormones in your body. You may live a normal and healthy life with careful management and follow-up consultations with your healthcare practitioner to ensure your therapy is functioning properly.
What Alternative Treatments May Help Hypothyroidism?
Thyroid hormone-containing animal extracts are available. These extracts are derived from pig thyroid glands. Only T4 is delivered when you take levothyroxine. However, because your body is capable of generating T3 from synthetic T4, that is all you need.
Alternative animal extracts frequently include varying quantities of each hormone, and studies have shown that they aren’t any better than levothyroxine. As a result, they aren’t commonly suggested. Some health food stores sell glandular extracts as well. The Food and Drug Administration does not monitor or regulate these goods (FDA). As a result, their potency, legality, and purity cannot be guaranteed.
You use either of these items entirely at your own risk. However, if you decide to use these items, please notify your doctor so that your therapy may be adjusted properly. Investigate additional complementary therapies, such as selenium and vitamin B.
Complications of Hypothyroidism
Below are some health problems sometimes associated with hypothyroidism:
- Heart problems
- Low body temperature
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Birth defects
Advanced hypothyroidism, if left untreated, could result in serious health consequences, including the possibility of myxedema coma. People with myxedema coma have a better prognosis if their doctor can promptly provide thyroid hormone treatment. However, without prompt identification and treatment, this disease is frequently deadly. If you have a family history of hypothyroidism, you might consider getting genetic testing from CircleDNA. A comprehensive DNA test like this one will provide some information about your genetic risk of hypothyroidism.