Hypothyroidism - Health Center
By Refadoc, Posted on : Monday, 23 November 2015 - 5:48 am IST
Hypothyroidism: Basic Overview
The lack of a sufficient amount of thyroid hormone in the body leads to a condition known as Hypothyroidism. Thyroid hormone is one of the major hormones which regulate the metabolism of the body. People having problems related to Thyroid gland often tend to suffer from a slow metabolism. Around 10 million people all over the world suffer from this condition.
The thyroid gland is responsible for controlling the usage of the energy of the cells from the food. This process is known as metabolism. Metabolism plays a major role in the maintenance of the body temperature, regulating the heartbeat as well as burning of the calories. If a person is suffering from Hypothyroidism, this means that their rate of metabolism has been drastically slowed down, which makes the person sluggish and less energetic.
Women, above the age of 60 are at a higher risk of contracting this condition. Hypothyroidism tends to upset the chemical reactions in the body and if left untreated, can lead to some of the major problems such as infertility, obesity and heart disease. With the timely detection, treatment as well as prevention, the condition can be easily controlled.
Causes of Hypothyroidism:
The Thyroid gland is one of the major constituents of the endocrine system. Thyroxin, the hormone released by the thyroid gland is used extensively to manage the metabolism of the body systems. People above the age of 50 are at a greater risk of contracting this problem as compared to their counterparts.
Swelling or inflammation in the thyroid gland often causes Hypothyroidism. Some of the major causes of Hypothyroidism are as follows:
- The attack of the immune systems on the thyroid gland
- Viral infections, caused due to common cold
- Postpartum Thyroiditis
- Certain medications such as lithium or amiodarone
- Birth or congenital defects
- Surgical removal of the thyroid gland
- Sheehan Syndrome – This condition tends to occur in a woman who has been bleeding excessively during the course of the pregnancy.
- Pituitary surgery or tumour.
Often, the exposure to radiation during the course of treatment of cancers such as Lymphoma could be other reasons of Hypothyroidism. This radiation effects and damages the cells around the thyroid gland which makes it difficult for the glands to secrete thyroxin.
Signs and Symptoms of Hypothyroidism:
The following are the major signs and symptoms of Hypothyroidism:
- Increased fatigue
- Heavy and irregular menstrual periods
- Joint as well as muscle pains
- Paleness or dryness of the skin
- Loss of body weight
- Impairment of the memory
- Thinning and brittleness of the hair
- Slowing down of the heart rate
If the disease is left untreated, its signs and symptoms tend to get much worse. Advancement of the disease is often termed as Myxedema, which can be life threatening. The signs and symptoms of Myxedema can range from decreased breathing; lowering down of the blood pressure, decrease in the body temperature or coma in some of the rarer cases.
Hypothyroidism in Infants:
Often, babies who are born without a thyroid gland or an inactive thyroid gland suffer from this problem. The signs and symptoms of Hypothyroidism are as follows:
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
- Frequent choking
- Large and protruding tongue
- Puffiness of the face
- Development of a poor muscle tone
- Excessive sleepiness
Physical and mental retardation are some of the major outcomes of the disease, if left untreated.
In teenagers and children, the signs and symptoms of the condition are as follows:
- Poor growth of the body, which leads to a short stature
- Delay in the growth of permanent teeth
- Delay in the onset of puberty
- Poor mental development
Tests and Diagnosis of Hypothyroidism
Older women and men are at a higher risk of contracting the disease. This is one of the major reasons why the doctors screen older men and women for the prevalence of this disease. The doctors can test the person for an underactive thyroid gland if a person has been feeling tired, constipated or has been incurred diseases like Goitre in the past.
Blood Tests: Blood Tests are one of the surest ways to determine the condition. Blood tests are done in order to measure the amount of TSH and thyroxin in the bloodstream. A low level of TSH is indicative of a poor and underactive thyroid gland.
With the help of the sensitive TSH test, doctors are able to diagnose the disorders beforehand and can follow it up with a thyroid test in case it is needed. TSH tests are best known in order to determine the dosage of the medication which needs to be prescribed over to the patient. TSH has also emerged as one of the best ways in order to diagnose subclinical hypothyroidism. In this condition, though a person would be having regular amounts of thyroxin, the levels of TSH will be higher than normal.
Treatment and Medications for Hypothyroidism:
Usually, one of the most standard treatment options for Hypothyroidism includes the injection of artificial thyroid hormone such as Levothyroxine. This oral medication is often given in the oral form and thus it helps to check and reverse the signs of the disease.
Once the treatment begins, the fatigue tends to lessen with the passage of time. The treatment with Levothyroxine is usually lifelong, though the dosage tends to change over the years.
The levels of TSH are determined with the help of the blood tests before the medications are prescribed. However, with an excessive amount of medication, some of the side effects such as increased appetite, insomnia, increased palpitations of the heart as well as shakiness tend to appear. If a person is suffering from Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), then a lesser dosage of the medication is prescribed.
A few medications, supplements and foods tend to affect the ability of the body to absorb Levothyroxine. Iron supplements, cholestyramine, aluminium hydroxide and calcium supplements are often prescribed in addition to the medications for the treatment of the condition.
For the treatment of subclinical hypothyroidism, treatment options need to be discussed with the doctor beforehand. With the increase in the amount of TSH, thyroid hormone therapy can be applied for the benefit of the patient. The higher levels of TSH also improve the cholesterol levels, the pumping ability of the heart as well as the overall energy level.