Hypothyroidism (Underactive thyroid) Symptoms and Causes

What’s hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is the dificiency of thyroid hormone, happens when your body does not make enough thyroid hormones. The thyroid is a small butterfly-like gland located on the lower front of your neck. It releases hormones to help the body regulate and utilize energy.

Your thyroid is responsible for supplying energy to most of your body’s organs. It regulates functions such as the heartbeat and functioning of your digestive system. Without the necessary quantity of thyroid hormones, your body’s natural functions start to slow down.

Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid occurs in women more often than men. It usually affects people older than 60, but it can start at any age. It can be found by a routine blood test or after symptoms start.

Subclinical hypothyroidism is a term that refers to an early, mild form of the disease.

If you have a recent diagnosis of hypothyroidism, it is important to know that treatment is considered easy, simple, safe and effective.

The majority of treatments depend on increasing your low hormone levels with artificial hormones. These hormones are going to replace what your body does not produce by itself and help restore normal functioning of your body.

Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism?

Different people have different signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism. The seriousness of the condition also affects what signs and symptoms occur and when. Sometime Symptoms can also be difficult to recognize.

Initial symptoms may involve weight gain and fatigue. Both become more frequent as you get older, regardless of your thyroid’s health. You may not be aware that these changes are associated with your thyroid until further symptoms develop.

Common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism include the following:

  • dry skin
  • dry, thinning hair
  • impaired memory
  • fertility problems or menstruation changes.
  • muscle weakness
  • fatigue
  • Obesity
  • Hair loss
  • muscular stiffness, pain and tenderness.
  • pain and stiffness in the articulations.
  • Lethargy
  • puffy, sensitive face
  • depression
  • constipation
  • Cold sensitivity
  • decreased sweating
  • Heart rate is declining.
  • increased blood cholesterol.

For most people, the symptoms of the disease gradually develop over time. Because the thyroid is slowing down more and more, symptoms can become more noticeable. Of course, a lot of those symptoms also become more frequent with age in general.

If you suspect that your symptoms are caused by a thyroid condition, talk to your doctor. They may suggest a blood test to see whether you suffer from hypothyroidism.

What causes hypothyroidism?

Common causes for hypothyroidism are discussed below.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

Your immune system keeps your body’s cells safe from invasive bacteria and viruses. When unfamiliar microbes penetrate your body, your immune system responds by sending fighting cells to destroy foreign antigens.

Your body may not know the difference between normal and healthy cells and invasive cells. This is referred to as an auto-immune response. If the auto-immune response is not controlled or treated, your immune system may attack normal and healthy cells. This may lead to serious medical problems, including problems like hypothyroidism.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an auto-immune disorder and the most common cause of an underactive thyroid in the US. This disease affects your thyroid gland and causes chronic thyroid inflammation, which can reduce thyroid function.

It is more frequent among middle-aged women, but it can also affect men and children. This condition moves into families as well. If someone in your family has been diagnosed with the disease, your risk of contracting the disease is higher.

Treatment for hyperthyroidism

If your thyroid gland generates excessive thyroid hormone, you suffer from a condition called hyperthyroidism. The treatment of this condition seeks to reduce and normalize the production of thyroid hormones.

Sometimes the treatment may cause a permanent decrease of the thyroid harmone. This is often the result of radioactive iodine treatment.

Surgical removal of your thyroid

If your whole thyroid gland is taken away due to thyroid problems, you will develop hypothyroidism. The use of thyroid medicines for the rest of your life is the primary treatment.

If only part of the gland is removed, your thyroid can always be able to produce the necessary hormones by itself. Blood tests will help you determine how many thyroid medications you will require.

Radiation therapy

If you have been diagnosed with head or neck cancer, lymphoma or leukemia, you may have received radiation therapy. Radiation used to treat these diseases may slow down or resist the production of thyroid hormones. This will nearly always result in hypothyroidism.


Many drugs can decrease the production of thyroid hormones, leading to hypothyroidism. These include those used for the treatment of psychological conditions, cancer, or heart disease, such as:

  • lithium
  • mitotane (Lysodren), a medicine for adrenal cancer.
  • interleukin-2 (IL-2)
  • amiodarone (Pacerone), an antiarrhythmic drug

Risk factors for hypothyroidism?

The following factors may prevent your risk of developing hypothyroidism:

  • being female
  • be at least 60 years of age.
  • with a family background of hypothyroidism.
  • certain autoimmune disorders, such as Sjögren syndrome and type 1 diabetes

How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?

Two primary tools are used to determine if you suffer from hypothyroidism, medical assessment and blood test.

Medical evaluation

Your doctor will perform a thorough physical examination and medical background. They will verify the physical signs of hypothyroidism as follows:

  • slowed reflexes
  • swelling in the neck
  • dryness of skin
  • a slower heart rate

Furthermore, your doctor will ask you to report any symptoms you have experienced, such as fatigue, depression, constipation or a constant feeling of coldness.

If you have a known family history of thyroid problems, talk to your doctor about it.

Blood tests

Blood tests are the only way you can accurately confirm the diagnosis of hypothyroidism.

A thyroid hormone (TSH) test measures the amount of TSH delivered by your pituitary gland:

  • If your thyroid does not produce enough hormones, the pituitary gland will increase the release of TSH to increase the production of thyroid hormones.
  • If you suffer from hypothyroidism, your TSH levels will increase because your body tries to further stimulate the activity of thyroid hormones.
  • If you suffer from hyperthyroidism, your TSH levels will be lower because your body is trying to stop the excess production of thyroid hormones.

Thyroxin (T4) testing is also useful for the diagnosis of hypothyroidism. T4 is one of the hormones that comes directly from the thyroid gland. T4 and TSH tests are used together to regulate thyroid function.

Usually, if you have a reduced rate of T4 and a high rate of TSH, you suffer from hypothyroidism. But there is a spectrum of thyroid disorders. Additional thyroid function tests may be required to correctly diagnose the disease.

Complications of hypothyroidism?

Complications associated with hypothyroidism include:

  • goiter
  • nerve cells are damaged.
  • peripheral neuropathy
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • reduction of renal function in case of serious illness.
  • myxedema coma, in case of serious illness.
  • obstructive sleep apnea

Hypothyroidism may also lead to infertility or complications associated with pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia.

Effect of hypothyroidism on pregnancy?

Women with hypothyroidism and want to conceive, may face a special set of challenges. Low thyroid function or uncontrollable hypothyroidism during pregnancy can result in:

  • preeclampsia
  • stillbirth
  • anemia
  • miscarriage
  • low birth weight
  • problems with developing the brain.
  • birth defects

If you suffer from hypothyroidism and are pregnant, you should complete the following steps during the period:

Talk to your doctor about testing

Females may develop hypothyroidism in pregnancy. Some physicians regularly check thyroid levels in pregnancy to monitor low levels of thyroid hormones. If your rates are below what they should be, your doctor may recommend treatment.

Some women who have never had thyroid problems until they are pregnant can develop thyroid problems after giving birth. This is referred to as post-partum thyroiditis. For many females, the condition ends under 12 to 18 months, and No more drugs are needed. Approximately 20 percent of women with post-partum thyroiditis will require long-term treatment.

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