Having an under active thyroid condition called Hypothyroidism is much more common that some may believe or be aware of.
As many as 10 million American’s have hypothyroidism, and many don’t even know it.
Firstly, before we get into the purpose of the thyroid gland, let’s explain what this organ is briefly. The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped organ located at the base of your neck, and It’s job is to release hormones that controls your body’s metabolism.
Put simply, the metabolism is defined as the bodily processes needed to maintain life. In addition, it’s the way your body uses energy.
To often we hear the word metabolism and it’s connection to weight loss. For example, someone might say “I can’t lose weight because I have a slow metabolism.” While this could be true, how much you exercise and your diet play a larger role in how much weight you are able to lose.
The purpose of the thyroid gland is very important. Thyroid hormones regulate very important functions of the body, such as:
The thyroid is part of the endocrine system. This system is made up of numerous glands that produce hormones to regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, sleep, and mood.
Expanding on this, according to the Mayo Clinic, the other glands that are apart of the endocrine system include:
The thyroid gland uses iodine from the foods you eat to make two main hormones, Triiodothyronine (T3), Thyroxine (T4).
These two important hormones, T3 and T4, travel in your bloodstream to reach almost every cell in the body.
Therefore, Hypothyroidism occurs when there is to little T3 and T4 in the body.
Opposingly, Hyperthyroidism, the opposite of hypothyroidism, occurs when there is to much T3 and T4 in the body.
In the United States, hypothyroidism is more common than hyperthyroidism. However, having an overactive thyroid gland is still not uncommon.
Not everyone knows the proper time to see your doctor. As a rule, you should see your doctor if you’re feeling tired for no reason or have any of the other symptoms of hypothyroidism. For example, things such as having dry skin, a pale, puffy face, constipation, or a hoarse voice are all symptoms of hypothyroidism.
There can be a number of causes of hypothyroidism. Causes include autoimmune disease, hyperthyroidism treatments, radiation therapy, thyroid surgery, and certain medications for instance.
An autoimmune disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Occurring when your immune system produces antibodies that attack your own tissues, this disorder is called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Unfortunately, we still don’t know the exact reasons why the body would attack itself. Similarly, we also can’t rule out that genes might play a factor in addition to some form of environmental trigger.
Sometimes, people who are initially diagnosed with hyperthyroidism will often receive treatment with radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications. Ideally, the goal of these treatments is to get the thyroid function back to normal.
However, in some cases correcting hyperthyroidism can end up lowering thyroid hormone production too much, resulting in permanent hypothyroidism.
Radiation therapy that is used to treat cancers of the head and neck can affect your thyroid gland and may lead to hypothyroidism.
Generally speaking, when a person goes into the hospital in order to remove all or a large portion of their thyroid gland it can diminish or halt hormone production. If this does occur, the person will need to take thyroid hormone for life.
A number of medications can cause hypothyroidism. For example, one such medication called lithium is used to treat certain psychiatric disorders. Unfortunately this drug can also cause hypothyroidism. To sum up, it’s always a good idea if you’re taking medications that you ask your doctor about its effect on your thyroid gland.
Some other medications that may cause hypothyroidism, include (but are not limited to):
While anyone can be diagnosed with hypothyroidism there are numerous factors that can increase your risk towards developing hypothyroidism.
You should always visit your primary care physician to discuss any symptoms that you may be having that could be related to hypothyroidism disease.
If left untreated, hypothyroidism can cause numerous other health problems, such as:
Pushing your thyroid gland to release more hormones may cause the gland to become larger, and is known as a health condition called a goiter. In addition, A larger sized goiter can affect your appearance and may interfere with swallowing or breathing. While this is not usually uncomfortable, it needs to be treated.
High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol also known as the “bad” cholesterol can occur in people with an underactive thyroid gland. As a result, hypothyroidism is also associated with an increased risk of heart disease and heart failure.
Depression may occur early in hypothyroidism and may become more severe over time. In addition, hypothyroidism can also cause slowed mental functioning.
Long-term uncontrolled hypothyroidism can cause damage to your peripheral nerves, the very nerves that carry information from your brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body. Symptoms of this form of neuropathy include pain, numbness and tingling in affected areas which can include feet and hands, as an example.
Myxedema is a rare, life-threatening condition that is the result of long-term, undiagnosed hypothyroidism. Specifically, Its symptoms include intense cold intolerance and drowsiness followed by heavy feels of being lethargy and unconsciousness. Triggers of Myxedema coma’s include sedatives, infection, or other stress on your body. Finally, If you have developed any of the signs of myxedema you need to seek emergency medical care.
Other symptoms of having a myxedema crisis include:
Having low levels of thyroid hormone can interfere with ovulation, resulting in an impact of a woman’s fertility. In addition, it’s important to note that when an autoimmune disorder causes hypothyroidism it can also impair fertility.
When babies are born to women with untreated thyroid disease it may put them at a higher risk of birth defects compared to babies born to healthy mothers. In addition, these babies are also more prone to serious intellectual and developmental problems. As a result, infants with untreated hypothyroidism present at birth are at risk of serious problems with both physical and mental development. All in all, early diagnosis in infants significantly increases the chances of normal development are excellent.
The first step in being diagnosed with hypothyroidism is by having one or more blood samples taken for analysis. Specifically, these samples will measure your level of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) and the level of the thyroid hormone thyroxine in your bloodstream. Therefore, if your blood shows a low level of thyroxine and high level of TSH, this would indicate that you do indeed have an underactive thyroid.
The standard treatment for someone with hypothyroidism involves the daily use of the synthetic thyroid hormone Levothyroxine. Reversing the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism, this oral medication restores adequate hormone levels.
In conclusion, if you’re experiencing any signs of hypothyroidism make a doctor’s appointment.
Before going, write down all medications you’re taking and any questions you have for your doctor.
Also, your doctor will most likely ask when you first started noticing these symptoms.
Hypothyroidism is a very common and frequently unnoticed thyroid problem. Experiencing any of the described symptoms, make sure to ask your doctor about your thyroid.
Finally, Hypothyroid symptoms will diminish, but most likely life-long medication and follow-up care will be necessary.