Hypothyroidism: What You Need to Know

Hypothyroidism is a baffling disorder caused by an underactive thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is in the middle of the throat and produces thyroid hormones. If it’s under active, it does not produce enough thyroid hormone to keep a person optimally healthy. Underactive thyroid is a serious disease because nearly every system in the body is affected by the levels of thyroid hormone.

What a Person with Hypothyroidism Needs to Know

A person with an underactive thyroid needs to know that the signs and symptoms of the disorder are varied, and they all don’t occur at once. Some people suffer with most of them, while others only have a few symptoms that may be so mild that they don’t think it’s worth going to their doctor. Symptoms of underactive thyroid are:

• Cold hands and feet.
• Dry, itchy skin.
• Pallor.
• Weight gain even though the person loses their appetite.
• Constipation.
• Sluggishness and lack of energy.
• Hair that falls out or is dry and brittle.
• Aching muscles.
• Blurred vision.
• Hearing loss.
* Trouble sleeping.
• Being sleepy much of the time.
• Mood swings.
• Puffy eyelids.
• Disturbed menstrual cycle.
• Lack of sex drive.
• Hoarse voice.

Underactive thyroid itself is often a symptom of another disorder or injury that causes the thyroid gland to not produce enough hormone. It’s important that the cause of the underactive thyroid be discovered and treated.

Some conditions that can lead to underactive thyroid are:

• Treatment for Hyperthyroidism.
The very treatments that prevent the thyroid from producing too much thyroid hormone such as iodine therapy or surgery can lead to the thyroid becoming underactive.

Hashimoto’s Disease
This is an autoimmune disease where the thyroid is attacked by the person’s own immune system.

• Cancer treatment of the person’s neck, head or chest, especially if it involves radiation or surgery.

• Family history of underactive thyroid.

• Problems with the pituitary or hypothalamus glands. These glands control the balance between thyroid hormones, particularly triiodothyronine and thyroxine.

Some people are born with an underactive thyroid and others contract the disease because they don’t get enough iodine in their diet. However, iodine deficiency is quite rare in the United States.

People over 60 are more at risk for underactive thyroid, and women get the disease more often than men. A pregnant woman with an underactive thyroid will also need to be monitored throughout her pregnancy.

Though there’s no way to prevent underactive thyroid, a person who knows they’re at risk can get screening tests. If they have the condition, they can be easily treated.

Complications for someone who has untreated underactive thyroid can be severe. The disease can increase the risk of infections, tumors of the pituitary gland and heart disease. A pregnant woman has a higher risk of miscarriage, and people who want to have children are at higher risk of infertility. In rare cases, the person can suffer myxedema. The symptoms of this are fatigue, hoarseness, intolerance to cold, mental derangement and depression and a possibly life-threatening coma.

Fortunately, a person with underactive thyroid can have normal levels of thyroid hormone if the take synthetic hormone. They probably will need to take the hormone for the rest of their life and regularly see their doctor to make sure that the dose is right for them.