Hypothyroid is a form of thyroid disease and refers to an underactive thyroid. Thyroid problems can affect both men and women; however, 80% of people with hypothyroidism are women. Despite the fact that millions of Americans are affected by hypothyroid, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism often go unnoticed due to their similarity to other illnesses. However, both medical and natural hypothyroid treatment is available.
Thyroid Conditions: What Are They?
The thyroid is a gland located at the base of the throat that produces two hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones are responsible for maintaining your body’s metabolism. When your body does not make enough of these hormones for your body, you have what is known as hypothyroid, underproduction of the thyroid hormones. In some people, though, the thyroid may produce too much hormone. This is known as hyperthyroidism.
Most often, hypothyroid conditions are caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or autoimmune thyroid disease. This disease causes the immune system to attack the thyroid gland and is responsible for the majority of cases of hypothyroid. However, a person may develop thyroid problems, like hypothyroid, because of an inflamed thyroid; surgical removal of the thyroid; a congenital defect; or previous radioactive iodine treatment for a goiter. Rarely, the problem will lie in the pituitary gland, which fails to properly stimulate the thyroid gland’s production of hormones. This is known as secondary hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms. People with hypothyroid often feel tired and sluggish, both mentally and physically, due to the fact that their entire body’s normal rate of functioning has slowed down. Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Difficulties losing weight or unexplained weight gain
- Cold intolerance
- Memory problems
- Abnormal periods
- Skin that is rough or flakes and is dry
- Muscle or joint pain
- Thin, brittle hair and nails
Performing a thyroid test to ensure proper functioning of the thyroid is fairly simple. A physical exam will assess your outward symptoms as well as involve taking your blood pressure, temperature and heart rate, which are often lower in people with hypothyroidism. A blood test will also be administered in order to measure your levels of T4 hormones in your blood along with your thyroid levels of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone).
If your thyroid tests show that you have low T4 levels but high TSH levels, you will be diagnosed with primary hypothyroidism, meaning that your thyroid gland is the problem. Tests results that show low T4 levels along with low TSH levels indicates that there is a problem with your pituitary gland and will result in secondary hypothyroidism being diagnosed.
Treatment for hypothyroidism usually focuses on replacing the missing hormones in your system through the use of thyroid medications. The most common form of thyroid medicine is levothyroxine, a synthetic form of T4. Dosage will vary from person to person and will require close monitoring at the start of treatment.
Treatment for thyroid conditions is lifelong. Even when you start to feel better, it is necessary to continue taking your medication in order to ensure that your thyroid hormones stay at a healthy level. If they drop too low, you may go into a myxedema coma, which can be life threatening. Failure to treat your hypothyroid condition can lead to severe depression, heart failure, or coma.