Thyroid is a small organ in the shape of a butterfly that is placed at the base of the throat and is responsible for producing a hormone that regulates energy. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid produces abnormally low levels of thyroid hormone.
Thyroid is a part of the endocrine system made up of glands that store and release hormones into the bloodstream, making them reach the cells of the body. Hormones produced are thyroxine and triiodothyronine. The pituitary gland and hypothalamus maintain the balance between these hormones.
Pituitary gland makes the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to ensure the optimal levels of thyroid hormone. Thyroid regulates body functions like breathing, menstrual cycle, muscle strength, cholesterol levels, body temperature and the nervous system.
Since thyroid hormone affects the growth, development and functioning of the body, hypothyroidism affects the whole body.
According to Mayo Clinic, hypothyroidism is more common in women than in men and and is prevalent in people over the age of 60. This condition may be the result of various factors like auto-immune disease Hashimoto's thyroiditis or deficiency of iodine, use of medicines like lithium used for psychiatric treatments, radio-iodine or radiotherapy of the neck.
Pregnancy may also be a reason. Some babies are born with a defective thyroid gland or may have inherited it from their family genes. It may also be a result of any surgery, defective pituitary gland. The causes can vary from one person to another. So, the best thing to do is discuss the risk factors and causes with your doctor.
The signs and symptoms of the condition may depend on the severity of the hormone deficiency and may include:
Do not come to any conclusion if you notice any of these or all symptoms in your body. You must consult a doctor, undergo a few tests before you are diagnosed.
The doctor will ask you about your symptoms and your medical history. If he hears about the symptoms like fatigue, dry skin, weight gain, constipation and previous thyroid surgeries or goiter- he will send you in for a hypothyroidism test.
Laboratory test for TSH in blood is the most common blood test, levels of thyroid hormone are checked to diagnose the condition. A high level of TSH and low level of thyroxine may indicate the existence of hypothyroidism.
Thyroid hormone replacement is one of the common treatment options for hypothyroidism. This may include daily oral consumption of the medicine which will be equivalent to the thyroxine hormone.
The medicine regulates the production of thyroid hormone, reversing the symptoms of hypothyroidism. The dosage differs and depends on TSH levels in the blood, medical history and symptoms of the patient.
Doctors may also suggest you maintain the iodine levels since it is important for the normal functioning of the thyroid.