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Underactive Thyroid (Hypothyroidism) : Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

What is Underactive Thyroid?

Hypothyroidism occurs when your body doesn?t produce enough thyroid hormones. The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the front of your neck. It releases hormones to help your body regulate and use energy.

Your thyroid is responsible for providing energy to nearly every organ in your body. It controls functions like how your heart beats and how your digestive system works. Without the right amount of thyroid hormones, your body?s natural functions begin to slow down.

Also called underactive thyroid, hypothyroidism affects women more frequently than men. It commonly affects people over the age of 60, but can begin at any age. It may be discovered through a routine blood test or after symptoms begin.

If you?ve recently been diagnosed with the condition, it?s important to know that treatment is considered simple, safe, and effective. Most treatments rely on supplementing your low hormone levels with artificial varieties. These hormones will replace what your body isn?t producing on its own and help return your body?s functions to normal.

Underactive Thyroid is also known as Hypothyroidism. Underactive Thyroid belongs under the category of Thyroid disease. primary, secondary, and tertiary Hypothyrodism are some common types of Underactive Thyroid. Generally Adult women(Mostly), Men (rare) are the victim of the Underactive Thyroid. Seriousness of this disease is Medium.

Symptoms of Underactive Thyroid are :

  • anaemia
  • Slow heart rate
  • thinned or missing eyebrows
  • puffy face
  • low-pitched and hoarse voice
  • heavy periods
  • Menorrhagia is the medical term for menstrual periods with abnormally heavy or prolonged bleeding. Although heavy menstrual bleeding is a common concern, most women don't experience blood loss severe enough to be defined as menorrhagia.

    With menorrhagia, you can't maintain your usual activities when you have your period because you have so much blood loss and cramping. If you dread your period because you have such heavy menstrual bleeding, talk with your doctor. There are many effective treatments for menorrhagia.

  • pain, numbness in hand and fingure
  • loss of libido (sex drive)
  • brittle hair and nails
  • dry and scaly skin
  • muscle cramps
  • slow movements and thoughts
  • Weight gain
  • Weight gain can result from an increase in body fluid, muscle mass, or fat. An increase in body fluid can come from medications, fluid and salt retention, intravenous fluid infusion, kidney or heart failure. An increase in muscle mass is commonly seen with exercising. An increase in body fat is commonly seen as a result of diet or lack of exercise as the body converts muscle to fat. An excessive weight gain is referred to as obesity. Obesity is a function of environmental (diet, exercise, lifestyle, etc.), hormonal, and inherited (genetic) factors in varying degrees. Weight gain is a normal part of pregnancy.

  • Feeling cold
  • constipation
  • Depression
  • Depression is classified as a mood disorder. It may be described as feelings of sadness, loss, or anger that interfere with a person?s everyday activities.

    It?s also fairly common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source estimates that 8.1 percent of American adults ages 20 and over had depression in any given 2-week period from 2013 to 2016.

    People experience depression in different ways. It may interfere with your daily work, resulting in lost time and lower productivity. It can also influence relationships and some chronic health conditions.

    Conditions that can get worse due to depression include:

    It?s important to realize that feeling down at times is a normal part of life. Sad and upsetting events happen to everyone. But, if you?re feeling down or hopeless on a regular basis, you could be dealing with depression.

    Depression is considered a serious medical condition that can get worse without proper treatment. Those who seek treatment often see improvements in symptoms in just a few weeks.

  • Hearing problems
  • Hearing loss that occurs gradually as you age (presbycusis) is common. About one-third of people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 75 have some degree of hearing loss. For those older than 75, that number is approximately 1 in 2.

    Hearing loss is defined as one of three types:

    • Conductive (involves outer or middle ear)
    • Sensorineural (involves inner ear)
    • Mixed (combination of the two)

    Aging and chronic exposure to loud noises both contribute to hearing loss. Other factors, such as excessive earwax, can temporarily reduce how well your ears conduct sounds.

    You can't reverse most types of hearing loss. However, you and your doctor or a hearing specialist can take steps to improve what you hear.

  • tiredness
  • Weakness

    Weakness is when strength is decreased and extra effort is needed to move a certain part of the body or the entire body. Weakness is due to loss of muscle strength. Weakness can be a big part of why cancer patients feel fatigue.

    Fatigue

    Fatigue is an extreme feeling of tiredness or lack of energy, often described as being exhausted. Fatigue is something that lasts even when a person seems to be getting enough sleep. It can have many causes, including working too much, having disturbed sleep, stress and worry, not having enough physical activity, and going through an illness and its treatment.

  • Fatigue/weakness
  • Weakness

    Weakness is when strength is decreased and extra effort is needed to move a certain part of the body or the entire body. Weakness is due to loss of muscle strength. Weakness can be a big part of why cancer patients feel fatigue.

    Fatigue

    Fatigue is an extreme feeling of tiredness or lack of energy, often described as being exhausted. Fatigue is something that lasts even when a person seems to be getting enough sleep. It can have many causes, including working too much, having disturbed sleep, stress and worry, not having enough physical activity, and going through an illness and its treatment.

    Causes

    Underactive Thyroid can be caused due to:

    Common causes of hypothyroidism include:

    An autoimmune disease

    Your immune system is designed to protect your body?s cells against invading bacteria and viruses. When unknown bacteria or viruses enter your body, your immune system responds by sending out fighter cells to destroy the foreign cells.

    Sometimes, your body confuses normal, healthy cells for invading cells. This is called an autoimmune response. If the autoimmune response isn?t regulated or treated, your immune system can attack healthy tissues. This can cause serious medical issues, including conditions like hypothyroidism.

    Hashimoto?s disease is an autoimmune condition and the most common cause of an underactive thyroid. This disease attacks your thyroid gland and causes chronic thyroid inflammation. The inflammation can reduce thyroid function. It?s common to find multiple family members with this same condition.

    Treatment for hyperthyroidism

    If your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, you have a condition known as hyperthyroidism. Treatment for this condition aims to reduce and normalize thyroid hormone production. Sometimes, treatment can cause the levels of your thyroid hormone to remain low permanently. This often occurs after treatment with radioactive iodine.

    Surgical removal of your thyroid

    If your entire thyroid gland is removed due to thyroid problems, you?ll develop hypothyroidism. Using thyroid medication for the rest of your life is the primary treatment.

    If only a portion of the gland is removed, your thyroid may still be able to produce enough hormones on its own. Blood tests will help determine how much thyroid medication you?ll need.

    Radiation therapy

    If you?ve been diagnosed with cancer of the head or neck, lymphoma, or leukemia, you may have undergone radiation therapy. Radiation used for the treatment of these conditions may slow or halt the production of thyroid hormone. This will almost always lead to hypothyroidism.

    Medications

    Several medicines may lower thyroid hormone production. These include ones used to treat psychological conditions, as well as cancer and heart disease. This can lead to hypothyroidism.

    What kind of precaution should be taken in Underactive Thyroid?

    Precautions to keep thyroid levels under control

    Diet

    Keep a tab on your food intake. A balanced and utterly nutritious diet not only helps you to stay healthy but also takes care of all sorts of hormonal secretions. The immune response is triggered when the intestinal lining is inflamed. This can always be reasons for imbalanced thyroid hormones. Taking lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, salmon and extra virgin oil can help you to ensure perfect thyroid levels.

    Avoid processed foods

    Processed and packed foods are not only threatening to your weight but also can be a disaster for various health goals. Transfat, high fructose, refined sugar and MSG cannot be ruled out in the processed and packed foods. Even vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels, watercress and cruciferous vegetables can stimulate autoimmune diseases. Ensure, these foods are always cooked. Raw consumption can interfere with the synthesis of thyroid hormones.

    Supplements

    Defiance of iodine is one of the primary reasons for thyroid issues across the world. Supplements can be taken, and in many countries, it is done with the iodized table salt and dairy foods. However, too much of iodine can lead to hyperthyroidism. If you are all for taking iodine pills, then you should first consult a doctor. Thyroid health can be maintained by taking Vitamin D or selenium. Vitamin D is mandatory if the immune system is less fortified. Again, do not eat any supplements without your doctor?s advice.

    Stay off from environmental toxins

    Exposure to endocrine disruptors for long can again lead to thyroid secretion imbalance. Waterproof clothing, non-stick cookware, carpets, flame resistant are few examples of things that can inhibit the endocrines. This is closely connected to thyroid disease. Antibacterial soaps that have triclosan as an ingredient can disturb hormonal levels.

    Thyroid problems can be treated with ease when found early. Always seek doctor?s advice before you try any medicine for your health problems related to thyroid.

    How it can be spread?

    Does not spread

    Treatment for the Underactive Thyroid

    Diagnosing hypothyroidism

    Two primary tools are used to determine if you have hypothyroidism:

    Medical evaluation

    Your doctor will complete a thorough physical exam and medical history. They?ll check for physical signs of hypothyroidism, including:

    • dry skin
    • slowed reflexes
    • swelling
    • a slower heart rate

    In addition, your doctor will ask you to report any symptoms you?ve been experiencing, such as fatigue, depression, constipation, or feeling constantly cold.

    If you have a known family history of thyroid conditions, it?s important you tell your doctor during this exam.

    Blood tests

    Blood tests are the only way to reliably confirm a diagnosis of hypothyroidism.

    A thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test measures how much TSH your pituitary gland is creating:

    • If your thyroid isn?t producing enough hormones, the pituitary gland will boost TSH to increase thyroid hormone production.
    • If you have hypothyroidism, your TSH levels are high, as your body is trying to stimulate more thyroid hormone activity.
    • If you have hyperthyroidism, your TSH levels are low, as your body is trying to stop excessive thyroid hormone production.

    A thyroxine (T4) level test is also useful in diagnosing hypothyroidism. T4 is one of the hormones directly produced by your thyroid. Used together, T4 and TSH tests help evaluate thyroid function.

    Treatment

    Treatment for hypothyroidism focuses on supplementing the thyroid hormone. At present, doctors cannot cure hypothyroidism but they can help people to control it in most cases.

    Synthetic thyroxine

    To replenish levels, doctors usually prescribe synthetic thyroxine, a medication that is identical to the T4 hormone. Doctors may recommend taking this in the morning before eating each day.

    Dosage is determined by the patient?s history, symptoms, and current TSH level. Doctors will regularly monitor the patient?s blood to determine if the dosage of synthetic T4 needs to be adjusted.

    Regular monitoring will be required, but the frequency of blood tests will likely decrease over time.

    Iodine and nutrition

    Iodine is an essential mineral for thyroid function. Iodine deficiency is one of the most common causes of goiter development, or abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland.

    Maintaining adequate iodine intake is important for most people, but those with autoimmune thyroid disease can be particularly sensitive to the effects of iodine, meaning that it can trigger or worsen hypothyroidism.

    They should inform their doctor if they are sensitive to the effects of iodine.

    People with hypothyroidism should discuss any major dietary changes with their doctor, especially when starting a high fiber diet, or eating lots of soy or cruciferous vegetables.

    Diet can affect the way in which the body absorbs thyroid medication.

    During pregnancy, iodine requirements increase. Using iodized salt in the diet and taking prenatal vitamins can maintain the required levels of iodine.

    Iodine supplements are available for purchase online.

    Hypothyroidism can normally be managed appropriately by following the advice of a qualified healthcare practitioner. With appropriate treatment, thyroid hormone levels should return to normal.

    In most cases, medications for hypothyroidism will need to be taken for the rest of the patient?s life.

    Possible complication with Underactive Thyroid

    Complications of an underactive thyroid

    Several complications can occur if you have an underactive thyroid that isn't treated.

    Heart problems

    If you have an untreated underactive thyroid, your risk of developing cardiovascular disease is increased.

    This is because having low levels of the hormone thyroxine can lead to increased levels of cholesterol in your blood. High cholesterol can cause fatty deposits to build up in your arteries, restricting the flow of blood.

    Contact your doctor if you're being treated for an underactive thyroid and you develop chest pain, so that any problems can be detected and treated, if necessary.

    Goitre

    A goitre is an abnormal swelling of the thyroid gland that causes a lump to form in the throat. Goitres can develop in people with an underactive thyroid when the body tries to stimulate the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormones.

    Pregnancy complications

    If an underactive thyroid isn't treated during pregnancy, there's a risk of problems occurring. These include:

    • pre-eclampsia ? which can cause high blood pressure and fluid retention in the mother and growth problems in the baby
    • anaemia in the mother
    • an underactive thyroid in the baby
    • birth defects
    • bleeding after birth
    • problems with the baby's physical and mental development
    • premature birth or a low birthweight
    • stillbirth or miscarriage

    These problems can usually be avoided with treatment under the guidance of a specialist in hormone disorders (an endocrinologist). Therefore, tell your GP if you have an underactive thyroid and you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant.

    Myxoedema coma

    In very rare cases, a severe underactive thyroid may lead to a life-threatening condition called myxoedema coma. This is where the thyroid hormone levels become very low, causing symptoms such as confusion, hypothermia and drowsiness.

    Myxoedema coma requires emergency treatment in hospital. It's usually treated with thyroid hormone replacement medication given directly into a vein. In some cases, other treatments such as breathing support, antibiotics and steroid medication (corticosteroids) are also required.

    References:

    1 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/underactive-thyroid-hypothyroidism/treatment/ 2 https://www.healthline.com/health/hypothyroidism/symptoms-treatments-more 3 https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350289 4 https://www.webmd.com/women/hypothyroidism-underactive-thyroid-symptoms-causes-treatments#3-7 5 https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/glands/underactive-thyroid#complications-of-an-underactive-thyroid 6 https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-lowdown-on-thyroid-slowdown 7 https://patient.info/hormones/thyroid-and-parathyroid-glands/underactive-thyroid-gland-hypothyroidism#nav-3 8 https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/163729#risk_factors 9 https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hypothyroidism#who

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