Hypothyroidism is a common thyroid disorder that results from malfunctioning of the gland involving a variety of symptoms and factors. It happens when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones and is also called an underactive thyroid. A thyroid specialist provides an individualized treatment plan based on the severity of the condition and the patient’s specific needs.
Introduction to Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, which produces thyroxine and triiodothyronine hormones. The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in regulating various functions in the human body, which is why it is so important for overall health and the proper functioning of organs.
This small but mighty gland is responsible for producing the hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones are released into the bloodstream and regulate various body functions, including metabolism, internal temperature, breathing, weight, hair and nail growth, and brain development.
If you or a loved one is experiencing thyroid issues, continue reading to learn about hypothyroidism symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment.
What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid, is a condition whereby the thyroid fails to produce enough thyroid hormones (triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4)). The body requires an adequate supply of these hormones to function optimally, without which many key functions are slowed down.
Patients with hypothyroidism may experience slowed metabolism, weight gain, breathing problems, temperature control issues, muscle weakness, and interrupted brain functioning, among other problems.
Who is Predisposed to Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism affects 5-10% of the population. According to studies, the condition affects around 5% of the population, while another 5% is undiagnosed.
Anyone can develop hypothyroidism, including infants, but older people (60+) are more predisposed. Women are also more likely to be affected compared to men. Other factors that increase the risk include:
- Past thyroid treatment, such as surgery
- Previous thyroid disorders like goiter
- Family history of thyroid disease
- Thyroid, neck, or chest radiation treatment
- Recent pregnancy
People with the following conditions may also have an increased risk of developing hypothyroidism:
- Turner syndrome
- Celiac disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Pernicious anemia
- Sjogren syndrome
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Subclinical (mild) hypothyroidism may be asymptomatic. However, moderate to severe underactive thyroid presents symptoms that require management. While extremely low levels of thyroid hormones can be life-threatening, potentially leading to heart failure or coma, the condition is well manageable with proper treatment.
Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Inability to tolerate cold
- Gaining weight
- Muscle soreness or pain
- Slowed heart rate
- Decreased sweating
- Brain fog
- Heavy and irregular menstrual cycle
- Dry skin and hair
- Hoarse voice
Hypothyroidism may also lead to complications such as high cholesterol, myxedema coma, mental issues, goiter, heart problems, and hearing loss.
Causes of Hypothyroidism
There are several causes of hypothyroidism, including:
- Hashimoto’s disease (antibodies attack the thyroid gland)
- Thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid)
- Radiation treatment during the treatment of hyperthyroidism may destroy thyroid cells
- Congenital hypothyroidism (occurs when a baby is born with an underdeveloped thyroid)
- Some medicines (e.g., heart and cancer medicines)
- Part or complete removal of the thyroid during treatment of a thyroid problem
Diagnosis of Hypothyroidism
The presence of hypothyroidism symptoms does not necessarily mean you have the condition. A doctor may need to conduct a physical exam, evaluate your medical history, and perform tests. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms list above, It’s important to seek guidance from a thyroid nodule specialist in Singapore.
Common tests for diagnosing hypothyroidism include blood and imaging tests.
Hypothyroidism Treatment and Management
Maybe you’re wondering – can hypothyroidism be cured?
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for hypothyroidism currently. But there’s an appropriate treatment to manage the condition and enable you to lead a quality life. Typical treatment involves hormonal replacement using levothyroxine and thyroxine replacement pills. These are thyroid hormone medicine administered orally and will be able to bring back your hormones to normal levels. Your doctor will also monitor your hormone levels periodically after using the hypothyroidism medication. If you encounter any symptoms, it’s best to raise them as well.
High-iodine foods, such as eggs, iodized salt, and dairy products, may benefit some patients since iodine is essential for thyroid hormone production. However, patients with autoimmune thyroid disorders may be intolerant of iodine. In such a case, your doctor may recommend you avoid certain foods likely to worsen symptoms.
Sadly, hypothyroidism is not preventable. However, proper management can enable you to lead a healthy, normal life.
While there’s no cure for hypothyroidism yet, with proper treatment, there are ways you can manage the condition and lead a quality life. In addition, timely treatment is vital to avoid serious complications.
The endocrine system plays a crucial role in coordinating and controlling many functions in the body, including metabolism, growth and development, mood, and immune responses. If left untreated, it can lead to various health issues. Diagnosis and management of these thyroid conditions such as hypothryoidism often involve hormone replacement therapy, lifestyle modifications, and close medical monitoring.
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