Hypothyroidism is a common disease resulting in a decrease in the activity of the thyroid gland and a failure to produce the normal levels of the thyroxin hormone. The thyroid gland is situated in the lower front of the neck. And the hormones produced by it is distributed to the body through the bloodstream to all parts of the body from the brain to the heart, muscles and even skin.
The thyroid gland is responsible for controlling the mechanism by which your body’s cells utilizes the energy produced from food, which is a process called metabolism. Among other things, metabolism is also responsible for your body’s mean temperature, heartbeats, and the ability to burn calories. If your body does not have enough thyroxin, your body functions deteriorate and your metabolism becomes slower.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is thyroiditis or inflammation of the thyroid gland, also called Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease which results in the antibodies attacking the thyroid gland and destroying it.
Thyroiditis could also be caused by a viral infection.
Other causes include:
- Radiation therapy over the neck.
- Treatment with radioactive iodine.
- Some medications used in heart, psychiatric disease, and cancer.
- Surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid gland.
- Low levels of iodine in diet.
- Under developed thyroid gland at birth.
- Pituitary gland disorder.
- Hypothalamus disorder.
And primary hypothyroidism is caused by problems within the gland, whereas secondary hypothyroidism is caused by other problems affecting the gland.
Who’s at risk?
Women, especially older age, are more prone to the disease than men. Also, if any of your relatives have autoimmune disease. Other risk factors include:
- Race (white and Asian people)
- Old age.
- Premature grey hair.
- Autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes mellitus and multiple sclerosis.
- Bipolar disorder.
- Down syndrome.
- Turner syndrome.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism may be very weak or similar to those of other diseases. However, if they present, it’s usually in the following manner:
- Irregular menses.
- Dry hair and skin.
- Hair loss.
- Sensitivity to cold.
- Slow heart beats.
- Enlarged thyroid gland.
- Unexplained weight gain or difficulty losing weight.
Presence of the hypothyroidism in babies may be symptomless, otherwise, it presents as follows:
- Cold hands and feet.
- Constant sleepiness.
- Under development.
- Weak muscles.
- Persistent jaundice.
- Loss of appetite.
- Swollen face.
- Swollen tongue.
Besides complaining of the previous symptoms, your doctor may ask you to run some tests to confirm the diagnosis, such as TSH, and T4 blood levels.
Low T4 levels usually indicate hypothyroidism. However, some may have high TSH levels with normal T4 levels. A condition known as subclinical hypothyroidism. Which is usually a pre-hypothyroidism condition.
If these tests are positive, your doctor may ask you to do a neck ultrasound, or thyroid scan to check for the presence of nodules or inflammation?
If you have been diagnose with hypothyroidism, your doctor will prescribe you a form of synthetic thyroid hormone, of which you will take a pill every day to supplement the low levels of thyroxin in your blood.
And you will need to do regular blood checkups on the hormone levels which may indicate the need for your doctor to adjust your dosage from time to time.
If hypothyroidism remains untreated, it may cause many complications, including:
- Heart diseases.
- Joint pain.
Having hypothyroidism during pregnancy, may affect the fetus. During the first 3 months of pregnancy, the fetus relies completely on the mother to get the thyroxin hormone supply. And if the mother has hypothyroidism, that may result in some mental under development.
Very low levels of the thyroid hormone may cause a condition called myxedema. And this is considered the most dangerous complication. People with Myxedema may lose consciousness, or pass into a coma. It may also cause decrease in core body temperature resulting in death.