What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism means that the thyroid gland can’t make enough thyroid hormone to keep the body running normally. People are hypothyroid if they have too little thyroid hormone in the blood. Common causes are autoimmune disease, surgical removal of the thyroid, and radiation treatment
What causes hypothyroidism?
Most cases of hypothyroidism are caused by a condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, in which a patient’s immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid. Iodine deficiency used to be a common cause in India but after iodized salt became widely available has now become rare. Hypothyroidism can also be caused by treatment of hyperthyroidism or by certain medications, and it may be present from birth. The thyroid may temporarily become underactive after pregnancy or if it is inflamed due to a viral infection. Finally, faulty signaling of the thyroid through a problem with the pituitary gland can cause hypothyroidism.
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone. Symptoms may include any of the following: feeling run down, slow, depressed, sluggish, cold, tired, having dry skin and hair, constipation, muscle cramps, or weight gain. Women may have a heavier menstrual flow. Some patients have a swelling in the front of the neck due to thyroid enlargement (a goiter). Sometimes hypothyroidism may be asymptomatic and detected only on testing.
How is the diagnosis of hypothyroidism made?
A history of symptoms, a physical examination and laboratory tests that measure the amount of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood are the first steps. Measurement of thyroid hormone (thyroxine, or T4) is helpful, and detection of antithyroid antibodies that attack the thyroid may help in diagnosing the cause of hypothyroidism. Since symptoms of hypothyroidism may be caused by other disorders, hypothyroidism cannot be reliably diagnosed solely by symptoms or by taking your temperature.
How is hypothyroidism treated?
Synthetic thyroxine. Thyroxine (T4) is the major hormone produced by the thyroid gland and pure synthetic T4, taken once daily by mouth, successfully treats the symptoms of hypothyroidism in most patients. Because of variations in the potency of T4 made by different manufacturers, including generic preparations, it is best to stay on T4 from a single manufacturer whenever possible. The current branded forms of synthetic T4 are Eltroxin, Thyronorm, Thyrox, Thyroup, Thyrofit,etc.
What are the problems with too much or too little hormone?
If you are not taking enough T4, some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism may continue. If you take too much, you may have symptoms of an overactive thyroid, including nervousness, a racing heart, trouble sleeping, and shaking.