The thyroid is a small gland located at the base of the neck. It is responsible for producing two important thyroid hormones. Triiodothyronine or T3 and thyroxine or T4 are hormones responsible for regulating one’s metabolism, which in turn regulates important functions such as the heart rate, blood pressure, and digestive function. They also support muscle and bone health.
When the thyroid gland stops or is unable to produce the right amount of thyroid hormone, it results in an underactive thyroid. This condition is known as hypothyroidism. The thyroid hormones cannot enter the bloodstream, creating domino effects on the body.
As one’s metabolism slows down, it leads to several conditions, such as obesity, infertility, and heart disease. Extreme fatigue and inability to tolerate cold temperatures are early symptoms.
There are various types of hypothyroidism:
- Congenital hypothyroidism is a condition where a baby is born with an underdeveloped thyroid or no thyroid at all. Hence, it is unable to produce any thyroid hormones.
- Pregnant women may also experience temporary hypothyroidism during the term of the pregnancy.
- One can also develop it in adulthood because of factors – from poor health to autoimmune diseases.
Unlike other conditions, hypothyroidism symptoms may take several years to manifest and recognize. They include the following:
- Weakness, tiredness, fatigue
- Tingling in the hands
- Weight gain and obesity
- Muscle weakness and soreness
- High cholesterol levels
- Inability to tolerate low temperatures
- Dry skin and hair
- Decreased sexual libido
- Memory loss
- Puffiness in the eyes and face
- Lower, hoarser voice
- An enlarged thyroid is known as goitre
- Slow heart rate
Hypothyroidism symptoms in men include all of the above. On the other hand, Hypothyroidism symptoms in females include heavy menstrual flow, more frequent periods, and fertility issues.
Several factors can trigger hypothyroidism, but the major ones include the following:
- Thyroid-related conditions include thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland), Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune disorder where the cells damage the thyroid), and post-partum thyroiditis, a temporary condition that occurs in some women after giving birth.
- Iodine helps the thyroid to produce hormones. An iodine deficiency can lead to this condition.
- When a major part of the thyroid gland is removed during surgery, it can inhibit the production of thyroid hormones, leading to this condition.
- Exposure to radiation therapy used to treat cancer can affect your thyroid gland and may lead to hypothyroidism.
- It could be a side effect of taking lithium medication, which inhibits the release of the thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland.
- Some babies are born with a defective thyroid gland or, at times, no thyroid gland. If the thyroid gland does not develop, it could be affected by congenital hypothyroidism. Newborn thyroid screening is recommended.
- When the pituitary gland is unable to secrete the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), it affects the thyroid gland’s ability to produce T3 and T4. This can result in hypothyroidism.
- Those who have diabetes are at a higher risk of developing thyroid-related disorders such as hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism diagnosis can be tricky, and your medical practitioner may test for other conditions first. Since the symptoms of hypothyroidism overlap with several other conditions, it is not easy to recognize them.
However, there is a hypothyroidism test that specifically diagnoses this condition. Your medical practitioner will recommend blood tests such as thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test, T3, T4, and thyroid antibody tests, which measure the thyroid hormone level.
Since low levels of thyroid hormone cause hypothyroidism, the treatment involves replacing the hormone deficit that the body is unable to create naturally. This is done through medication – a pill, which is a synthetic version of the thyroid hormone. It is to be orally taken every day.
Your medical practitioner may ask you to take it for three to six months, during which they will monitor your TSH levels. The medication will replenish the thyroid hormone and balance its levels in the body.
Sometimes, you may need to take medication for the rest of your life. However, the dosage may change as your health improves. Your doctor also may suggest lifestyle changes, such as upping your iodine intake, getting enough sleep, exercising, and reducing stress. They may suggest working with a nutritionist to craft a custom-made nutrition plan that will fuel your recovery, immunity, and strength.
It often takes patients a long time to recognize hypothyroidism symptoms. Medical practitioners may also be unable to diagnose it immediately, and there can be the scope of an inaccurate diagnosis. Hence, it is best to visit a seasoned practitioner who is savvy with various conditions related to hormone-producing glands, such as the thyroid. If not treated in a timely way, one’s health can deteriorate quickly into more serious life-altering conditions.
To avail of accurate and hassle-free diagnosis and treatment of hypothyroidism, you can visit the CK Birla Hospital or book an appointment with Dr online. Our healthcare professionals are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and cutting-edge technologies to determine the root cause of various conditions and offer the right course of treatment.