Hypothyroidism (Underactive thyroid) Symptoms and Causes

What’s hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is the dificiency of thyroid hormone, occurs when your body doesn’t produce sufficient thyroid hormones. The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that situated at the lower front of your neck. It releases hormones to help your body regulate and use energy.

Your thyroid is responsible for providing energy to nearly every organ in your body. It regulates functions such as how your heart beats and how your digestive system works. Without the required amount of thyroid hormones, your body’s natural functions begin to slow down.

Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid affects women more frequently than men. It generally affects people over the 60 years of age, but it can begin at any age. It may be discovered through a routine blood test or after symptoms begin.

Subclinical hypothyroidism is a term for an early and mild form of the condition.

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, it’s important to know that treatment is considered easy ,simple, safe, and effective.

Most treatments depends on boosting your low hormone levels with artificial hormones. These hormones will replace what your body is not producing on its own and help to regain normal functioning of your body.

Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism?

The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism differs from person to person. The severity of the condition also affects which signs and symptoms appear and when. The symptoms are also sometimes difficult to be noticed.

Early symptoms can include weight gain and fatigue. Both become more common with your growing age, regardless of your thyroid’s health. You may not realize that these changes are associated with your thyroid until more symptoms appear.

The most common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism are:

For most of the people, symptoms of the condition progress gradually over many years. As the thyroid slows more and more, the symptoms may become more easily visible. Of course, many of these symptoms also become more common with age in general.

If you suspect your symptoms are the result of a thyroid problem, consult your doctor. They can suggest you a blood test to determine if you have hypothyroidism. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism.

What causes hypothyroidism?

Common causes of hypothyroidism are mentioned below.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

Your immune system is protects your body’s cells against invading bacteria and viruses. When unknown microbes enter your body, your immune system responds by sending out fighter cells to destroy the foreign antigens.

Sometimes, your body doesn’t differentiates between normal, healthy cells and invading cells . This is called an autoimmune response. If the autoimmune response is not regulated or treated, your immune system can attack normal, healthy cells. This can cause serious medical issues, including conditions such as hypothyroidism.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition and the most common cause of an underactive thyroid in the United States. This disease affects your thyroid gland and leads to chronic thyroid inflammation and this inflammation can decrease thyroid function.

It is most common in middle-aged women, but it can affect men and children also. This condition also travels in families. If a family member has been diagnosed with the disease, then your risk for getting this disease is higher.

Treatment for hyperthyroidism

If your thyroid gland produces excessive thyroid hormone, you have a condition known as hyperthyroidism. Treatment for this condition aims to decrease and normalize thyroid hormone production.

Sometimes, treatment can lead to permanent lowering of thyroid harmone . This often occurs after treatment with radioactive iodine.

Surgical removal of your thyroid

If your entire thyroid gland is removed as a result of thyroid problems, you’ll develop hypothyroidism. Using thyroid medication for the rest of your life is the main treatment.

If only a portion of the gland is removed, your thyroid may still be able to produce required hormones on its own. Blood tests will help to determine how much thyroid medication you’ll need.

Radiation therapy

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer of the head or neck, lymphoma, or leukemia, you may have undergone radiation therapy. Radiation used for the treatment of these conditions may slow or resist the production of thyroid hormone. This will almost always cause hypothyroidism.

Medications

Several medicines may reduce thyroid hormone production, leading to hypothyroidism. These include ones used to treat psychological conditions, cancer, or heart disease, such as:

Risk factors for hypothyroidism?

Factors that can inhance your risk of developing hypothyroidism are:

  • being female
  • being at 60 or more years old
  • having a family history of hypothyroidism
  • having some autoimmune conditions, such as Sjögren syndrome and type 1 diabetes

How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?

Two main tools are used to determine if you have hypothyroidism, a medical evaluation and blood tests.

Medical evaluation

Your doctor will complete a thorough physical exam and medical history. They’ll check for physical signs of hypothyroidism, that are:

In addition, your doctor will ask you to report any symptoms you’ve been experiencing, such as fatigue, depression, constipation, or constantly feeling cold.

If you have a known family history of thyroid conditions, tell your doctor during this examination.

Blood tests

Blood tests are the only way for accurate confirmation of diagnosis of hypothyroidism.

thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test measures how much TSH your pituitary gland is releasing:

  • If your thyroid isn’t producing sufficient hormones, the pituitary gland will increase TSH secretion to increase thyroid hormone production.
  • If you have hypothyroidism, your TSH levels will be raised, as your body is trying to stimulate more thyroid hormone activity.
  • If you have hyperthyroidism, your TSH levels will be less, as your body is trying to stop excessive thyroid hormone production.

thyroxine (T4) level test is also useful in diagnosing hypothyroidism. T4 is one of the hormones directly produced by thyroid gland. Used together, T4 and TSH tests help regulate thyroid function.

Typically, if you have a decreased level of T4 along with a high level of TSH, you have hypothyroidism. However, there’s a spectrum of thyroid disease. Other thyroid function tests may be necessary to properly diagnose the condition.

Complications of hypothyroidism?

Complications of hypothyroidism are:

Hypothyroidism can also lead to infertility or pregnancy-related complications such as preeclampsia. Find out more about the complications of hypothyroidism.

Effect of hypothyroidism on pregnancy?

Women who have hypothyroidism and want to conceive, can face a particular set of challenges. Low thyroid function or uncontrolled hypothyroidism during pregnancy can lead to:

If you have hypothyroidism and are pregnant, it’s necessary to follow these steps during the time you are expecting:

Talk to your doctor about testing

Women can develop hypothyroidism during pregnancy. Some doctors routinely check thyroid levels during pregnancy to monitor for low thyroid hormone levels. If your levels are lower than they should be, your doctor may prescribe treatment.

Some women who never had thyroid issues before they were pregnant may develop them after having a baby. This is called postpartum thyroiditis. For many women, the condition ends within 12 to 18 months, and medication is no longer needed. About 20 percent of women with postpartum thyroiditis will go on to require long-term therapy.

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