Understanding Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a medical condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough of certain important hormones. These hormones play an important role in regulating the body’s metabolism, heart rate, temperature and other essential functions. Hypothyroidism can cause a number of symptoms, including fatigue, weight gain, depression, dry skin, and constipation.

Hypothyroidism is diagnosed through a blood test that measures the level of thyroid hormones. Treatment usually consists of taking a daily dose of a thyroid hormone called levothyroxine. This medication restores the balance of hormones in the body and can help relieve symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

The following are some common symptoms of hypothyroidism:

  • fatigue
  • weight gain
  • depression
  • dry skin
  • constipation
  • cold intolerance
  • muscle aches and weakness
  • brittle nails
  • thinning hair and eyebrow loss

In addition, hypothyroidism can cause changes in the menstrual cycle, infertility and a decrease in sex drive.

Complications of Hypothyroidism

If left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to complications such as depression, infertility, heart disease and goitre, which is a swelling of the thyroid gland in the neck.

Risk Factors of Hypothyroidism

Anyone can develop hypothyroidism, but certain factors can increase the risk. These include having a family history of the condition, being older than 60, having certain autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, or having previously had thyroid surgery or radiation therapy to the neck.

Women are more likely than men to develop hypothyroidism, and people who live in certain geographical areas are more likely to be affected – including those in northern climates and in the Appalachian mountain range.

Treatment of Hypothyroidism

As mentioned, the most common treatment for hypothyroidism is taking a daily dose of a synthetic thyroid hormone called levothyroxine. This medication can help restore the balance of thyroid hormones in the body. Levothyroxine is a relatively safe and effective medication and is available in generic form.

Other treatments for hypothyroidism include lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy balanced diet, exercising regularly, managing stress, and getting enough sleep. In addition, supplements such as selenium, zinc, and iodine may help to improve thyroid function.