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Hypothyroidism: Causes and Symptoms
Hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid disorder. About 10 million Americans are likely to have hypothyroidism, and millions of people are estimated to be living without knowing they have it.1
Spreading awareness about hypothyroidism, its symptoms, and its severity can allow more people to seek out a diagnosis and receive treatment to prevent further health issues.
Here are some facts about hypothyroidism as well as what causes hypothyroidism. We also share some common symptoms of hypothyroidism along with some of the treatment options doctors may discuss with their patients.
What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid gland. A person with hypothyroidism has a thyroid gland that does not make enough thyroid hormone on its own to keep the body functioning properly.2
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the lower front area of the neck. The thyroid makes hormones that are secreted into the blood, which are then carried to tissues throughout the body. The thyroid hormone plays multiple roles in the body:
- Helps the body use energy
- Helps the body stay warm
- Keeps the brain, heart, and muscles functioning properly
What Causes Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism can sometimes be inherited. Hypothyroidism can also be caused by another health condition, such as:
- Autoimmune disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. With an autoimmune disorder, the immune system starts to attack itself and produces antibodies that fight against the thyroid gland.3
- Secondary hypothyroidism is another cause. Secondary hypothyroidism causes the pituitary gland to stop working, and the thyroid loses its signals to make thyroid hormone.
Who is at risk?
Certain factors may put you more at risk for developing hypothyroidism.4
- Being a woman
- Being older than 60 years of age
- Having a history of thyroid disease
- History of thyroid problems
- Receiving radiation treatment to the thyroid, neck, or chest
- Being pregnant in the last 6 months
Other health conditions including lupus, diabetes, celiac disease, and rheumatoid arthritis can cause the thyroid to be underactive and lead to hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Some common symptoms of hypothyroidism include5:
- Sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle aches
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Thinning hair
- Slowed heart rate
- Memory problems
Keep in mind that hypothyroidism symptoms tend to develop slowly over the years. Additionally, hypothyroidism shares similar symptoms to many other health conditions. If you suspect that you may have hypothyroidism, talk to your doctor to receive a proper test.
Treatment for Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism can be life-threatening if left untreated. Without treatment, the symptoms can become more severe and include:
- Mental health problems
- Difficulty breathing
- Heart problems
- Inability to maintain a normal body temperature
Once someone is diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a doctor will work to help them manage the disorder. Hypothyroidism is usually treated by replacing the amount of hormone that the thyroid is not making.6
Medications, such as levothyroxine, are needed to increase the amount of thyroid hormone the body produces and help even out hormone levels. Hypothyroidism is a life-long condition that will have to be managed daily. You should listen to your doctor’s prescription instructions and follow the labels on any medication you may receive as treatment.
Learn More Today
Take the time to learn more about hypothyroidism and how it affects the body. If you experience any symptoms related to hypothyroidism, or another thyroid disorder, talk with your doctor today.
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Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long-term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- Norman, James and Kopf, Jamie. “What Is Hypothyroidism?” Remedy Health Media, endocrineweb.com. July 19th, 2022. Accessed January 3rd, 2023. https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/hypothyroidism.
- “Hypothyroidism (Underactive).” American Thyroid Association, thyroid.org. Accessed January 3rd, 2023. https://www.thyroid.org/hypothyroidism/.
- “Hypothyroidism.” The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System, hopkinsmedicine.org. Accessed January 3rd, 2023. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/hypothyroidism.
- “Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid).” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Accessed January 3rd, 2023. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hypothyroidism#:~:text=makes%20thyroid%20hormones.-,How%20common%20is%20hypothyroidism%3F,or%20have%20few%20obvious%20symptoms.
- “Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mayo Clinic. Accessed January 3rd, 2023. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20350284.
- “Hypothyroidism.” Cleveland Clinic, clevelandclinic.org. Accessed January 3rd, 2023. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12120-hypothyroidism.