Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition wherein the thyroid glands do not produce sufficient thyroid hormone to meet the requirement of the body. One of the main reason behind it is deficiency of iodine. However, stress too, is cited equally responsible for the condition. Women after the age of 50 years pose a greater risk of hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism during pregnancy:
Endemic iodine deficiency may cause hypothyroidism in pregnant women. Hypothyroidism during pregnancy may be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms are no different than the symptoms of normal pregnancy. Around 2 to 3% of pregnant women suffer from sub-clinical hypothyroidism, while 0.3-0.5% of pregnant women suffer from overt hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism can be classified into three types:

  • Primary: It is likely to originate from the thyroid gland. The most common form in the primary type include Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease, and radio-iodine therapy.
  • Secondary: It originates from the pituitary gland, and is mainly the result of insufficient production on Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) by this gland. It accounts for less than 5 to 10 % of the total hypothyroidism cases. The reason for decreased production may be due to the damage caused to the gland by surgery, radiation or tumour.
  • Tertiary: The tertiary type of hypothyroidism causes when the hypothalamus is unable to produce required amount of thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH).

Causes:
The main causes of hypothyroidism are:

  • Iodine deficiency
  • Congenital or birth defects
  • Stress
  • Damage of thyroid gland due to radiation, surgery or tumour.
  • Removing a part or whole of thyroid gland to treat other thyroid problems.
  • Viral thyroiditis may often cause hyperthyroidism. However, it may be floowed by temporary or permanent hypothyroidism.

Sign & symptoms of hypothyroidism:
Hypothyroidism in its early stage may show following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • More susceptibility to cold
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Heavy menstrual period
  • Thin & brittle hair and nails
  • Pale and dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Weakness

Once you experience these symptoms, you should see your doctor at the earliest. However, if you neglect these symptoms and if the condition increases, it may show various other symptoms such as:

  • Puffy face, hands and feet
  • Slow speech
  • Hoarse voice
  • The skin becomes thick
  • The eyebrows become thin
  • Decreased recognition of smell and taste

Diagnosis:
To diagnose hypothyroidism, the doctor may ask for a thyroid test. Here, a pathologist may take your blood to measure the levels of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), and free thyroxine-T4. High level of TSH depict that the thyroid gland does not produce sufficient amount of T4 and T3.

Treatment:
Thyroid treatment is taken to meet the requirement of the thyroid hormone that is lacking in the body.
The doctors may low doses of give you thyroid replacement, which may help to ease the symptoms and bring your TSH levels, back to normal. It is a lifelong therapy. The hormone level should be checked every two to three months. It is important to monitor the thyroid levels every year.

Remember:

  • It’s important to continue taking the medication as per the doctor’s advise even when you feel better.
  • Take the medicine when the stomach is empty, it works the best.
  • Avoid switching brands of thyroid medicine. If you do so, inform your doctor and get your hormonal level checked.
  • Keep a watch on your diet as some products may alter the hormonal level.

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