Hypothyroidism is a condition that seems to affect more and more people around the world. It consists of a reduced function of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland produces three important main hormones that affect every cell in the human body and many of the important metabolic reactions. These hormones are triiodothyronine, thyroxine and calcitonin.
There is an initial state of the condition which most of the times it is impossible to diagnose. The thyroid has a reduced function but due to the increased amount of thyroid stimulating hormone from the pituitary gland, the final result is relatively normal concentrations of the thyroid hormones in the blood. There are no symptoms and clinical signs for the diagnosis even if the process has started.
Hypothyroidism is a diagnosis often made for women older than the age of 60. However, recent studies prove that more and more women, as well as men, develop hypo function of the thyroid gland at an early age even during childhood. There are certain autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis that cause hypothyroidism even in young adult women and men. Many of the people with this condition take years until being diagnosed. The reason for this is that symptoms take a significant amount of time to present and it is possible for many of them to be mistaken as caused by tiredness.
It is highly recommended to check your thyroid hormones at least once in your adulthood even if there are no symptoms. The checkup includes a single blood draw and you can see your results several hours later. The diagnosis is made based on the blood work and the symptoms presented by the patient. It is possible that a patient has severe symptoms but blood work shows only slight deviation from the normal ranges. It is caused by the fact that certain percentage of people is more sensitive to the thyroid hormones than others. Additional medical conditions can also affect the overall health and wellness of patients.
There are many symptoms of the hypothyroidism and most of them are caused by the slowed metabolism. The symptoms are the following:
- Gradual or sudden weight gain – It is possible to increase your weight with more than 50 pounds.
- Constant fatigue that stays even after rest.
- Sudden increased sensitivity to cold.
- Puffy face, as well as swollen limbs in the morning and throughout the day.
- Dry skin.
- Muscle weakness, aches, stiffness and tenderness.
- Elevated cholesterol levels.
- Pain, swelling and stiffness in your joints.
- Irregular menstrual periods that are abnormal in heaviness as well.
- Impaired memory and difficulty keeping concentration.
- Thinning and falling hair.
- Slowed heart rate.
It is not uncommon for older women who have had severe weight and fatigue problems, as well as depression, to seek medical help only to find out that it is all caused by the thyroid. The longer this condition stays untreated, the more severe symptoms become. The advanced hypothyroidism is referred to as myxedema. It is no longer as common as in the past, because of proper diagnoses and treatments. However, if it occurs it is life-threatening. Some of the symptoms associated with myxedema are the following:
- Very low blood pressure.
- Decreased rate of breathing.
- Decreased body temperature.
- Confusedness and unresponsiveness.
- Swelling of the whole body, especially the face.
- Possible fatal outcome.
Hypothyroidism is not uncommon in children and teen as well. The symptoms may be similar to the ones stated above, but the condition can lead to more serious consequences if left untreated. Hypothyroidism in children and teenagers includes the following:
- Delayed puberty.
- Delayed growth and development of permanent teeth.
- Poor development of the brain and decreased cognitive functions.
- Poor growth of the body and short stature.
Nowadays, it is quite difficult to not diagnose properly the condition of hypothyroidism. The tests are done quickly and based on the anamnesis treatment can be started as early as possible. Sometimes even there is no need for treatment even if there are deviations from the normal ranges. The reason for this is that symptoms are very important as well and if there are none, there is no need for a treatment.
There are several common causes for the hypo function of the thyroid gland. They are the following:
- Thyroid surgery. This type of surgery includes the removal of a very large portion or even the whole thyroid gland. It is most commonly performed when there is thyroid cancer. When the gland is missing or there is too less of it to produce enough hormones, hypo function is present. Treatment is required for the rest of your life.
- Treatment for hyperthyroidism. The opposite of hypothyroidism is hyperthyroidism (patients produce too much of the thyroid hormones). There are common anti-thyroid medications and radioactive iodine that reduce the function of the thyroid. However, this may result in a reduction of the function to a degree where the produced hormones are not enough and hypo function occurs. Treatment is then stopped for a certain amount of time until the thyroid starts hyper functioning again.
- Autoimmune diseases. This is the most common reason and it is presented in people of all ages. These diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and other types of autoimmune thyroiditis have the same pathological mechanisms. The immune system recognizes certain cell molecules of the thyroid gland as not genetically same as the ones for the body and produces antibodies against them. This results in gradual destruction of thyroid cells and inflammation of the gland. Therefore, at a certain moment the gland is unable to produce enough hormones and hypo function is present.
- There are many medications for other medical conditions that can affect the thyroid. For example, such medication is lithium, which is commonly used for treating psychiatric conditions. This is why it is important to be aware of the side effects of the medications you take and be informed by the medical specialist.
There are also other factors that may affect the thyroid gland but they are not as common. Some of them are congenital diseases, pituitary disorders, as well as pregnancy.
If you experience any of these symptoms or have doubts that your thyroid gland is not functioning properly, then I highly recommend contacting me for a free consultation. We manage patients with chronic disease by examining them in detail and finding the neurological imbalances that cause the dysfunction in order to treat the actual cause and not the symptoms.