Hypothyroidism is the term used to describe when your body does not produce enough thyroid hormones. Your thyroid is the small gland, shaped like a butterfly that is found at the front of the neck.
It releases a special hormone that your body uses to regulate and use energy. The thyroid is also responsible for providing energy to just about every organ in the body and controls many functions, like the workings of your digestive system, and your heartbeat.
We’re going to look at some of the causes and symptoms of hypothyroidism, and how you can treat it.
Signs and Symptoms
The telltale signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism vary from person to person and how severe the condition is will also affect which symptoms pop up. They can be quite difficult to identify, making this a tricky condition to pinpoint.
Early symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue and weight gain, but regardless of the health of your thyroid, both become more common the older you get. You might not realize that these changes in your body are related to your thyroid until more symptoms show up.
For most folks, the condition’s symptoms will gradually progress over the years. As the thyroid begins to slow more and more, the symptoms might become easier to identify.
Again, the symptoms become more prevalent in general as you get older, which can make identifying the condition difficult. If you think that your symptoms might be related to a thyroid issue, then you should speak with your doctor – they are able to request a blood test to determine if you have hypothyroidism.
The most common symptoms include fatigue, constipation, dry skin, feeling cold, slower heart rate, muscle weakness, weight gain, thinning and dry hair, decreased sweating, impaired memory, higher blood cholesterol, menstrual changes, and difficulties with fertility.
The Causes of Hypothyroidism
One of the most common causes of hypothyroidism is an auto-immune disease. Your immune system is meant to protect the cells in your body against bacteria and viruses that invade it.
When a foreign virus or bacterium enters your body, your immune system responds by sending out certain cells to target and destroy the foreign cells. Sometimes, your body can confuse your healthy and normal cells for invading ones, a process called an auto-immune response.
If the auto-immune response is not treated or regulated, your immune system can begin to attack your healthy tissues. This will cause some serious health problems and can lead to several medical conditions, including hypothyroidism.
Hashimoto’s disease is one such auto-immune condition and is most commonly caused by an underactive thyroid. The disease attacks the thyroid gland, causing chronic thyroid inflammation, which reduces thyroid function.
Unfortunately, hypothyroidism is a lifelong condition, and for most people, medication will be needed to alleviate and reduce symptoms. The condition is best treated by using levothyroxine, which is a synthetic version of the T4 hormone.
It copies the action of the thyroid hormone that would normally be produced by your thyroid. The medication is meant to regulate the normal levels of thyroid hormone in your blood – once the levels have been balanced, the symptoms of hypothyroidism will probably disappear or become much more manageable at least.
Once you have begun treating the condition, it will take a few weeks before you start to show and feel any signs of recovery. You will need to do more follow-up blood tests in order to monitor your progress, and you will work with your doctor to find a treatment and dosage plan that works best for your symptoms.
This is a timely process, and in most cases, people with hypothyroidism will need to take medication for the rest of their lives. But, it is not likely that you will have to maintain the same dosage.
Your doctor will test your TSH levels annually to make sure that your medication is working as it should. Click here to learn more about your treatment options.
Paying attention to your body is one of the most important things you can do. If you notice any drastic difference in how you feel or how your body behaves, then talk with your doctor to see if you might be affected by hypothyroidism.