Hypothyroidism Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

Hypothyroidism Symptoms

In this article, we will discuss hypothyroidism symptoms, causes, and treatment.

Introduction

Hypothyroidism is the deficiency of thyroid hormones in the body. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located on the lower front area of the neck. It rests just below the Adam’s apple, overlapping the windpipe. The pituitary gland manages and controls the thyroid gland.

The thyroid gland produces the tri-iodothyronine (T3) and the thyroxine (T4) hormones, which work in the blood. The thyroid gland produces these vital hormones using iodine. Of these two, the T3 hormone affects cellular metabolism.

Metabolism governs the ability of your body to live and produce energy. Consequently, when your metabolism is affected your body and bodily functions would tend to shut down. 

Let us look at the ways to detect Hypothyroidism. 

Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of thyroid deficiency vary according to the severity of the deficiency. Often, it could gestate for a long time, before revealing itself to you. They are barely noticeable at first and are generally overlooked under the misconception of old age. 

For instance, symptoms like fatigue or weight gain could be indicators of advancing years as well. Incidentally, the symptoms may differ between age-groups. Interestingly, babies may evince no symptoms at all. 

The most common symptoms of Hypothyroidism are:

  • Fatigue: The thyroid hormone governs the energy flow and metabolism in the body. Deficiency in the thyroid levels will contribute to drowsiness and a drop in motivation level.
  • Weight gain: During hypothyroidism, the body begins storing calories instead of burning them. If you feel you are gaining significant weight without any lifestyle change, you should visit the doctor. 
  • Feeling Cold: Your body generates heat due to the calories that it burns. When it begins to store calories, the chemical reaction in the body is reversed. If you notice yourself feeling inexplicably cold, it could be a sign of hypothyroidism.
  • Muscle aches and joint pain: During thyroid deficiency, the body becomes catabolic—the muscle tissue is broken down for energy. Break-down of muscle tissue contributes to aches. 
  • Hair Loss: The stem cells in hair follicles are sensitive to thyroid content. As they begin losing their nourishment, they become brittle. If you experience patchy hair fall, and coarse hair, you could be thyroid deficient.
  • Flaky and itchy skin: Dry skin may be an outcome of a variety of reasons. If you develop Myxedema—characterized by red, swollen skin allergies you may have active hypothyroidism. 
  • Anxiety and Depression: It is believed, though not conclusively, that a drop in energy levels and motivation could lead to bouts of anxiety and depression.
  • Irregular menstrual cycles: The well-being of your ovaries and uterus is linked with your body’s thyroid level. Any imbalance in the thyroid level could impair periods, or cause heavy bleeding. Visit a gynecologist if you feel something is unusual.
  • Constipation: Constipation is not a principal indication of thyroid problems. If you feel constipated and show other hypothyroidism symptoms, you should consult a doctor.

Hypothyroidism symptoms could often be ambiguous and mimic symptoms of other conditions. It is imperative to correctly diagnose the causes of your symptoms so that you may receive the appropriate treatment.

Causes

An insufficiency in your thyroid level could be as a result of any of these factors:

  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: Thyroiditis is an auto-immune disorder resulting in an inflammation of the thyroid gland. With Hashimoto’s your body perceives your good tissue to be bad, and automatically produces antibodies to terminate the thyroid gland.
  • Radioactive Iodine: Hyperthyroidism (a hyperactive thyroid gland) is treated with radioactive iodine. The excessive cells in your thyroid gland are destroyed using this treatment. However, this procedure could damage more cells than expected and induce permanent hypothyroidism.
  • Radiation therapy: The neck area is treated with radiation to fight against certain cancers, such as lymphoma. Radiation exposure could damage the cells of the thyroid gland and cause hypothyroidism.
  • Surgery: Surgically removing all or a significant portion of your thyroid gland can restrict or reduce the production of thyroxine hormones
  • Medications: Certain medications used in the treatment of psychiatric disorders and heart problems could induce thyroid deficiency. 

Consult your doctor about the effects of any medication, to be sure of what your body is ingesting.

Some of the less common causes are:

  • Inborn disease: There have been rare instances where babies have a nonexistent or a defective thyroid gland from birth. It is difficult to ascertain such a condition at the birth of the baby. You can consult your doctor and get your newborn screened for hypothyroidism.
  • Pregnancy: Hypothyroidism may be developed during or after pregnancy. This condition is called postpartum hypothyroidism, and if left untreated can be detrimental to the life of the fetus. This condition spikes the pregnant woman’s blood pressure during the final trimester and may also lead to a miscarriage.
  • Iodine deficiency: If your diet is not iodine-rich, you run the risk of acquiring hypothyroidism. Since iodine is not made by your body, you must look at ingesting iodine through your diet. Seafood, saltwater fishes, eggs, and dairy products can help you meet the necessary levels of iodine. 
  • Pituitary gland problems: As already informed, the pituitary gland shares a direct link with your thyroid gland. It releases a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) that instructs the thyroid gland to start or stop producing hormones. Any defect or disorder with your pituitary gland can fumble with the functioning of your thyroid gland, leading to a deficiency in hormones.     

If you feel symptomatic, visit a medical professional for the proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Treatment

Hypothyroidism is treatable, but may not be completely curable. Generally, a blood test may be ordered to test your TSH level and/or the thyroxine (T4) level. Physical exam and imaging scans are also available.

If the tests indicate that you have a high TSH level, but a low thyroxine level, you may be diagnosed with hypothyroidism. In some occasions, results may indicate an aggravated TSH level with a normal T4 level. This indicates the impending onset of thyroid deficiency.

Usually, the synthetic (man-made) thyroid hormone Levothyroxine is used for the treatment of hypothyroidism. The standard dosage is one Levothyroxine pill a day. The pill is supposed to supplement your body’s requirement of the T4 hormone. Your physician would ideally be checking your thyroxine and TSH levels at regular (weekly/monthly) intervals. 

An incorrect dosage could result in the following: 

  • Heart tremors;
  • Insomnia;
  • Irregular appetite;
  • Shakiness.

It might take a while before your appropriate dosage is found out. Initially, it could become a trial and error process.

There are some alternative medications available in the form of animal extracts derived from pigs for treating hypothyroidism. However, these alternate remedies are unreliable and must always be consumed after a medical practitioner’s approval.

Conclusion

Hypothyroidism is a tricky medical disorder and must be treated at the earliest possibility. Most of its indicators mimic the symptoms of other diseases. 

If you feel you are developing symptoms of thyroid deficiency, get in touch with a registered medical professional immediately. Remember, to write down beforehand any symptoms that you may be experiencing. Furthermore, keep a list of all the medications (if any) that you already consume.

We hope we have been able to help you understand the symptoms, causes and treatment options of hypothyroidism.