Underactive Thyroid or Hypothyroidism
Also known as hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid is a common disorder that occurs when the thyroid gland does not make enough of the thyroid hormone. This causes problems throughout the body because the thyroid controls how much energy your cells get from your food. This is also known as metabolism and impacts your body’s temperature, heartbeat, the calories you burn and more.
Causes of Hypothyroidism
There are several causes to hypothyroidism, with the most common being Hashimoto’s thyroiditis; an inflammation of the thyroid gland. With this condition, your body produces antibodies that attack and destroy the thyroid gland. Additional causes include:
- Certain medications that treat heart disease and cancer
- Thyroid surgery
- Too little iodine in the diet
- Radioactive iodine treatment
- Radiation therapy on the neck area
- Problems with your thyroid at birth
- Gland damage
You are at a greater risk for an underactive thyroid if you are Caucasian or Asian, if you are older, if you have premature graying hair, if you have bipolar disorder or if you have autoimmune disorders.
There are several symptoms related to hypothyroidism including constipation, changes to your menstrual cycle, depression, dry skin, fatigue, slow heart rate, carpal tunnel syndrome, unexplained weight gain and difficulty losing weight. Dry hair and hair loss is also a symptom of hypothyroidism. In babies, symptoms will include cold hands and feet, hoarse cries, little or no growth, extreme sleepiness, puffy face, poor feeding and swollen tongues.
Treatment of Hypothyroidism
To treat an underactive thyroid, blood tests will be ordered to determine hormone levels. If hormone levels are lower-than-normal, it means that you have the condition. If test results of the thyroid are abnormal, the doctor will order a thyroid ultrasound to check if it is inflamed.
Treating this involves taking a pill every day to increase your thyroxine levels in the body. You will have regular blood tests to check the level of your thyroid while taking the medication. Generally, this will continue for some time until your thyroid can get back to normal.