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.
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.
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.