What is Hypothyroidism

What is Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, also called underactive thyroid, is when the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones to meet your body’s needs. The primary demographics affected by hypothyroidism are women and individuals over 60, though it can also affect children and teens. 

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck. Thyroid hormones control the body’s use of energy, so they can affect nearly every organ in your body, including the heart. Insufficient production of thyroid hormones causes the slowdown of many bodily functions.

What are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?

The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism vary and will depend on the severity and length of time of the hormone deficiency. Thyroid problems tend to develop slowly, often over several years.

Initially, you may attribute symptoms such as fatigue and weight gain to getting older. But as your metabolism continues to slow, you may develop more obvious problems. Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Difficulty tolerating cold
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Dry, thinning hair
  • Reduced sweating
  • Heavy or irregular menstrual periods
  • Fertility problems in women
  • Depression
  • Decreased heart rate

What Causes Hypothyroidism

The most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disorder known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Autoimmune disorders occur when your immune system attacks the body’s tissues rather than foreign bodies. The antibodies produced by your immune system can affect the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones.

Hypothyroidism can be the result of treating an overactive thyroid, a condition called hyperthyroidism. Treatment for hyperthyroidism often involves administering radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications to get thyroid function back to normal At times, correcting hyperthyroidism can end up lowering thyroid hormone production too much, resulting in permanent hypothyroidism.

Surgically removing some or all of the thyroid gland can diminish or halt hormone production. This will result in life-long reliance on thyroid hormone.

Radiation used to treat cancers – primarily cancers of the head and neck – can affect your thyroid causing hypothyroidism.

Some medications can contribute to hypothyroidism including lithium, interferons (IFN), tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), alemtuzumab, and medications and agents that contain iodine.

How is Hypothyroidism Diagnosed

Diagnosis of hypothyroidism is based on self-reported symptoms and the results of blood tests that measure the level of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Low levels of thyroid hormone and high levels of TSH often indicate an underactive thyroid. 

Interested in Learning More About Treating Hypothyroidism?

If you’ve been feeling tired for no reason, have experienced other symptoms of hypothyroidism, or believe your thyroid levels may be low, talk to us for a diagnosis and treatment plan. Contact us online or by calling (480) 531-7043 today.

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