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What is Hypothyroidism?

By T Thompson
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Hypothyroidism is a medical condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones, which impacts the way the body consumes and processes energy. People who have this condition are often fatigued and are frequently overweight. There are a number of causes, but aging and thyroid disease are usually the most common. It’s sometimes hard to get a correct diagnosis since the symptoms overlap with many other conditions, but once care providers identify it patients can usually be treated pretty successfully with various medications.

Why it Happens

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that, in humans, sits in the upper neck just behind the Adam’s apple. It is quite small but has a very important job to do when it comes to regulating hormones. Thyroid hormones control how the body synthesizes proteins, uses food energy, and regulates core body temperature, among other things. A functional gland is really important to overall health.

Hypothyroidism happens when the glad isn’t able to make enough hormones, or suddenly ceases or dramatically reduces production. This most commonly happens when the gland becomes inflamed, either as a result of illness or disorder. Inflammation sometimes comes and goes, or it can be permanent; permanent damage is usually the result of a genetic disorder or specific disease. Autoimmune thyroiditis, also known as “Hashimoto’s thyroiditis,” is one of the most common, and happens when the immune system overreacts and begins attacking the gland itself.

The condition may also happen if the gland has been injured or removed as part of a medical treatment for some other condition. Certain cancers of the throat require partial thyroid removal, for instance, and the gland can also be injured as a result of an accident or other medical issue. Iodine therapy is often used to treat thyroid goiters, as well, and this type of therapy is usually designed to kill a portion of the thyroid in order to prevent goiters from growing any larger. Goiters are growths that, when they occur in the throat and neck, can make it very difficult for a person to breath normally.

Primary Symptoms

Many of the most pronounced hypothyroidism symptoms are also associated with other illnesses, and as a result are often overlooked or misdiagnosed by physicians. These include fatigue, general feelings of weakness, and depression; decreased libido and memory loss are common, too. People with this condition frequently gain weight and may develop an extreme sensitivity to cold climates or conditions. Dry hair, brittle nails, and cracked, flaky skin may also occur, and women often find that they have heavier, more painful menstrual cycles.


The best way to diagnose this condition is through a blood test, but the test is usually very specific — technicians have to be looking for the exact percentage of thyroid hormones present, which isn’t normally done in routine blood work for healthy patients. People who suspect that they might have this problem should ask a healthcare provider for a thyroid test. It's important to note, however, that the "normal" range for thyroid hormone is not the same for everyone. Patients should discuss their symptoms with a medical professional since blood results might show normal results even if symptoms indicate otherwise.

Common Treatments

People who have this condition usually take pharmaceutical thyroid hormone replacements in order to make up for the deficit. Prescription strengths tend to vary depending on the specifics of each individual case, and usually have to be adjusted periodically. Sometimes people can be on these sorts of drugs for just a little while, but in most cases they’re more or less permanent. The thyroid can’t usually heal itself, so drugs are one of the best ways to compensate for any production problems.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon947408 — On Apr 25, 2014

My sister has a bunch of the symptoms listed, but, she is one of the many people who do not believe in doctors. I spoke to her yesterday about how the thyroid gland could possibly being the root cause of her symptoms. She was even told a while ago about hypothyroidism by a doctor. Yet her stubborn behavior is forcing her in the wrong direction. It sure is frustrating. But it's best to just nod and agree with whatever she says.

By anon357436 — On Dec 04, 2013

Very helpful article as it points out that hypothyroidism can be an issue. Warning signs are very helpful.

By anon275765 — On Jun 20, 2012

I went through all the symptoms of Hypothyroidism and even after taking levothyroxine for months, I felt better at first but then felt the symptoms again.

I asked the doctor for stronger dose but it would cost me another $400 in medical bills to get another blood test. I found out about Iodoral, which is a high potency potassium iodide/iodine and I have felt wonderful ever since! It's from the radioactive iodine used for goiters. It's actually really good for you as a whole. Research it, buy it, use it and you will thank me later! I take one pill a day of 12.5mg. I bought two bottles of 180 pills and so it will last me a long time! It's truly changed my life!

By anon262125 — On Apr 18, 2012

I was also back in bed for three to four hours when first starting. I am beginning to feel better two weeks into treatment. Still not 100 percent but getting a little better every day. The brain fog is slowly improving. The doctor started me on 50 mcg, and does not want to retest for six weeks as any testing prior to that may not be accurate.

I would not wait four to five months to be retested if my symptoms had not improved in six weeks.

By anon132670 — On Dec 07, 2010

@Swati123: I have been suffering from hypothyroidism, especially brain fog. I am on levoxyl. Other symptoms seem to be fine but brain fog is horrible and I feel damn depressed and numb with this symptom. will coconut oil help for the brain fog too? please, please advise me.

By anon91824 — On Jun 24, 2010

I am having the same problem. I have been on Levothyroxine for two months now. After the first three or four weeks my fatigue, back pain, muscle aches, and poor memory problem seemed to disappear. I actually felt like a new person.

I have not had any weight loss. I am still struggling not to gain weight even with a low calorie diet and a lot of exercise. However, now at month two, all those symptoms are slowly coming back.

By fairyocious — On Apr 06, 2010

I was diagnosed as hypothyroid in March of 2009, and was placed on 25 mcg of Levothyroxin (Synthroid). By the time I was diagnosed, I had been progressively gaining weight and had ballooned to 245 pounds.

I restricted my caloric intake, but was not having any luck losing the extra weight. I hoped and prayed and waited to see if I would lose any of the extra pounds with the levothyroxin, but only plateaued.

Some of the other symptoms, hair loss, dry skin, fatigue, depression subsided in the beginning, but have slowly crept back in and now I'm feeling some pain on my outer neck, just below my chin. It's very tender to the touch, around where my thyroid gland is.

I met with my doctor this morning and he was inclined to dismiss my symptoms as an allergy to Oak, because I had a mild cough -- even though I stressed that my neck pain is painful to the touch, and not on the inside. It doesn't hurt to swallow, cough, or move my head/neck. He finally decided to order a full blood workup to see what's going on with my thyroid this time.

I'm assuming it's a matter of having to change my medication dosage, but I'm worried that it may be something else.

Has anyone else experienced the tenderness/painfulness that I'm describing? And if so, what should I expect from here?

Any suggestions and/or insight would be helpful and much appreciated.

By anon47245 — On Oct 03, 2009

I had joint pain and muscle cramps. I was treated with painkillers. later the pain returned and this time with low b.p. I was treated with multivitamins, to no avail, then had anger, irritability and memory loss. I was treated with antidepressants and sleeping pills only to make myself worse. After three months of suffering and pain I was diagnosed with overt hypothyroidism. I have been on medication for the past month. Almost all symptoms have gone but one annoyingly frustrating one is there: "brain fog". I have been a class topper all my life and now this brain numbness and lack of thinking pattern makes me suicidal. I am trying yoga to combat this one. Does brain fog due to hypothyroidism go away?Anticipating a yes to that one -- in how much time? I have no weight gain or hair loss or skin problems.

By aivlys — On Jun 16, 2008

Hi! I have loads of the symptoms of hypothyroidism (extraordinary exhaustion and fatigue, unexplained weight gain, low blood pressure / pulse rate / temperature, loss of body hair and outer third of eyebrow, hoarse voice, loss of concentration, poor memory, low sex drive, weepiness, long and heavy periods, I already have 2 auto-immune disorders - coeliac and psoriasis, muscle and joint aches, pins and needles, dry skin, puffy eyes, change in facial expression) yet my bloods have come back as normal. What can I do and where do I go from here?

I've been on the net for what seems like days and am seriously considering taking Thyromine. Thanks for any help or suggestions.

By swati123 — On May 24, 2008

HI, I would like to share my exp with you all suffering from thyroid.

I have had severely low thyroid for nearly two years now, I did not want to end up taking Synthroid. When came to know about VCO (Virgin coconut oil ) from my friend, I was so excited to try the Coconut Oil. I took 3 tablespoons a day and within two months, I returned to my physician and she just couldn't believe that everything on my tests was once again normal! She was so enthused that she has prescribed your product to three other thyroid patients since then. Your product took me out of the doom and gloom I suffered for so very long! My muscles have returned to normal... The depression, hoarse voice, swollen face/eyes and all my other symptoms have disappeared! there are many brand available in market you need to choose the right one I have been using MeritVCO.

Here is what you should see for an Extra Virgin Coconut Oil:

Colorless and crystal clear.

Light, fresh coconut aroma

Natural Coconut taste

Quick absorption

No oily feel

Very light viscosity

you can find more information by googling thyroid herbals.

By anon8735 — On Feb 19, 2008

hey friends, we are all in the same boat more or less. this winter break i was diagnosed...accidentally, as a case of hypothyroid. that was a jolt, especially being in the line of fitness for over 15 years...well i took my time to accept that this is one thing that's so not in my hands...but yes, now i knew all the answers to all the why my body was slowing down and bang i challenged myself to spring back and stop feeling beaten to the god-gifted situation. i accepted the new me. and today have lost about a kilogram with smarter workouts and yoga. yes i do feel pulled down at times..but then i simply put my feet up and do my breathing exercises and gear up my attitude. know you are your own best friend...so pep up, it's all in the attitude. god is with you. cheers! and good health :)

By anon3140 — On Aug 13, 2007

If you have an underactive thyroid does it come back up on its own or do you have to be treated?

By kathy — On Jun 17, 2007

i had my blood results through for my thyroid and it has gone from 2.46 to 100 and my t4 is 2.76 I've started on levithyroxine but feel terrible as soon as i take my pill in the morning and have to go back to bed for about 3 hours,when should i start to feel better.

By anon1656 — On Jun 10, 2007

I too have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and am still experiencing symptoms...in fact i have gained 7 pounds since I've started taking it, and haven't changed my diet but that im drinking more water and less sugary drinks. Im waiting my current THS test. Im taking 50mcg as well.

By anon982 — On May 10, 2007

I have recently been diagnosed as having hypothyroidism - when my doctor informed me I was only told you have hypothyroidism and heres a prescription for Levothyroxine come back in three weeks time for a blood test - no explanation of what is was or meant, no leaflet etc. I have had to research it myself on the net. When I returned three weeks later for my results I was told that my thyroid was now normal so my dose of 50mgs would be fine - come back in four to five months time !! I still have all the symptoms, have gained two stone in less than a year, have hair loss, very cold hands and feet, short term memory loss, weepy, lethargic, poor sleep pattern. How can my test be normal within three weeks of such a low dose of Levothyroxine and yet still have all the symptoms ?

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