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Hypothyroidism / Underactive Thyroid

Overview

Hypothyroidism is a common condition that affects many individuals, and is commonly known as underactive thyroid disease. In this condition, the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone for the body to operate correctly.

The hormones generated by the gland pass through the bloodstream and affect almost every organ in the body, including heart, brain, muscles and skin.

Thyroid gland is responsible for metabolism, the process by which cells of the body utilize meals to generate the energy required to operate correctly. Metabolism, among other things, also affects the body’s temperature, pulse, and how effectively calories are burned. A body cannot function correctly if there aren’t enough thyroid hormones, as the body will not produce sufficient energy, and the metabolism will slow down as a result.

Initially there may be no hypothyroidism symptoms – however, untreated hypothyroidism may lead to several health issues, including obesity, joint discomfort, infertility and cardiovascular diseases.

Hypothyroidism test, which tests for thyroid function is reliable and is utilized early in the identification of hypothyroidism. The synthetic thyroid hormone administration is generally simple, safe and successful once your primary care physician has established the correct dosage.

Causes

Understanding the causes of hypothyroidism is immensely important for accurate diagnosis and effective management of the condition. Here’s a list of all the potential hypothyroidism causes:

  • Autoimmune Thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis):
    One of the leading hypothyroidism causes is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland. Over time, this inflammation impairs the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones, leading to low thyroid levels, and hence underactive thyroid.

     

  • Iodine Deficiency:
    Iodine is a vital component in the synthesis of thyroid hormones. In regions with insufficient dietary iodine intake, the thyroid may struggle to produce an adequate amount of hormones, resulting in hypothyroidism.

     

  • Thyroid Surgery or Radiation Therapy:
    Individuals who undergo thyroid surgery or radiation therapy in the neck area may experience a subsequent reduction in thyroid function. Surgical removal or radiation treatment for thyroid cancer or other conditions disrupts hormone production.

     

  • Certain Medications:
    Some medications, particularly those containing lithium or amiodarone, can interfere with thyroid hormone production and lead to low thyroid levels, contributing to hypothyroidism.

     

  • Congenital Hypothyroidism:
    In rare cases, infants are born with an underactive thyroid gland, a condition known as congenital hypothyroidism. This may be due to a developmental issue or a genetic factor affecting thyroid function.

     

  • Pituitary or Hypothalamic Dysfunction:
    The pituitary gland and hypothalamus play crucial roles in regulating thyroid function through the production of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Dysfunction in these areas can lead to inadequate stimulation of the thyroid, resulting in hypothyroidism.

     

  • Postpartum Thyroiditis:
    Some women may experience temporary hypothyroidism after giving birth due to postpartum thyroiditis. This condition involves inflammation of the thyroid following childbirth, leading to a temporary reduction in hormone production.

     

  • Infiltrative Diseases:
    Certain diseases, such as sarcoidosis or amyloidosis, can infiltrate the thyroid gland, affecting its function and contributing to hypothyroidism.

Symptoms

Hypothyroidism symptoms are influenced by the severity of the hormone deficiency. Problems are most often discovered gradually, over a period of many years.

Hypothyroidism symptoms such as fatigue and weight gain may go undetected at first, since they are subtle. When your metabolism slows, on the other hand, you may experience more noticeable symptoms.

Hypothyroidism symptoms may include:

  • Increased cold sensitivity
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Dried skin
  • Weight Gain
  • Hoarseness
  • Weakness
  • Higher blood cholesterol levels
  • Muscle pains, soreness and rigidity
  • Edema
  • Heavier than usual or irregular cycles of menstruation
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Thinning hair
  • Depression
  • Memory impairment

Diagnosis

If you are feeling more fatigued, having dry skin, constipation, experiencing sudden weight gain, or if you have had prior thyroid issues or a goiter – your primary care physician may recommend testing for an underactive thyroid.

Hypothyroidism blood tests are performed to evaluate hormone levels if you show hypothyroidism symptoms. These may include the following:

  • TSH
  • T4

T4 values that are lower than normal typically indicate hypothyroidism. Some individuals, on the other hand, may have elevated hypothyroidism TSH levels despite having normal T4 levels. Subclinical (mild) hypothyroidism is the term for this condition. It is thought to be the first hypothyroidism symptom.

If you have abnormal thyroid test results or a physical exam, your primary care physician may prescribe a thyroid ultrasound, also known as a thyroid scan, to look for inflammation or nodules.

Treatment

As a conventional treatment for hypothyroidism, the synthetic thyroid hormone is administered on a regular basis. This oral medication helps to restore normal hormone levels, which helps alleviate the hypothyroidism symptoms.

Your primary care physician will prescribe T4 (thyroid hormone) if you have hypothyroidism. You must take this medication every day (as prescribed by the physician). Thyroid hormone levels are regularly tested, and this is done via hypothyroidism blood tests.

The dosage of your prescription medicine may have to be adjusted from time to time. It may take some time to determine the optimum thyroid hormone dose for you. People with severe hypothyroidism or heart defects should start with a modest dosage of synthetic hormone and progressively increase it.

You will most likely see an improvement in your hypothyroidism symptoms within a few weeks of starting hypothyroidism treatment. When used regularly, the medication works by gradually decreasing cholesterol levels that have been elevated as a consequence of the disease. It may also be effective in reversing weight gain. It is virtually probable that your treatment will continue for the remainder of your life; however, since the dosage you need may change over time, your physician will likely check your TSH level at least once a year.

When To See A Doctor

If you’re feeling fatigued for no apparent reason, or if you are experiencing any of the other indications or hypothyroidism symptoms, such as dry skin, a pale, bloated face, constipation, or a raspy voice, see your primary care physician as soon as possible.

Follow-up visits should be scheduled as often as your physician recommends if you are receiving thyroid hormone therapy for hypothyroidism. It is critical to ensure that you are receiving the proper dose of medicine.

Disclaimer

This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have concerns about hypothyroidism or any other medical conditions, please see a primary care physician for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment suggestions.

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