Hypothyroidism is a health condition that occurs when the thyroid gland produces extremely less amounts of thyroid hormone. Since the prime purpose of thyroid hormone is to maintain body’s metabolism levels, patients suffering from hypothyroidism have slow metabolism. Women over 60 are vulnerable to hypothyroidism. The ailment interferes with the balance of chemical reactions in the body. Often the symptoms show up early, but, if left untreated can lead to severe consequences like obesity, infertility or heart disease.
Causes of hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce adequate hormones. It can happen due a number of reasons including:
- Hashimoto's thyroiditis (a particular inflammatory disease) is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. When the immune system produces antibodies that attack own tissues, it paves way for autoimmune diseases. This process involves the thyroid gland, albeit sometimes.
- Patients who suffer from hyperthyroidism are treated with anti-thyroid medications and radioactive iodine therapy to restore balance of thyroid hormone. In some cases, treatment of hyperthyroidism can lead to hypothyroidism.
- Thyroid surgery is one of the reasons behind hypothyroidism because it involves removing certain portion of thyroid gland which halts hormone production.
- Radiation therapy used to treat head and neck cancer can affect thyroid gland leading to hypothyroidism.
- Iodine deficiency has virtually been rectified in most countries. However, if one consumes more than required iodine, he becomes a recipient of hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism Knowing about the signs of hypothyroidism is of extreme significance because you may not notice them initially. But as your metabolism slows and you grow old, chances are you may develop visible signs of hypothyroidism. Following are the symptoms:
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Hair loss
- Muscular cramps and stiffness in the joints
- Unusual menstrual periods
- High blood cholesterol level
- Partial memory loss
- In severe cases jaundice, slow speech and an increase in tongue size
The main objective of the treatment is to replace the thyroid hormone that you lack. An endocrinologist will most commonly prescribe Levothyroxine in lowest possible dose. This medicine relieves hypothyroidism symptoms and brings blood hormone levels back to normal. Most people require taking Levothyroxine for lifetime. However, there are certain measures to be taken while taking Levothyroxine:
- Don’t stop taking the pill even if you start to feel better. Strictly follow the doctor’s prescription.
- Levothyroxine works best when taken empty stomach and an hour before any other medication. If the doctor permits to take the medicine at bedtime, so be it. Studies have shown that taking thyroid pill at bedtime allows the body to absorb the medicine better.
- Maintain a gap of 4 hours between Levothyroxine and fiber supplements, calcium, iron, multivitamins etc.
Normally under the watchful eyes of experienced endocrinologists
, thyroid hormone levels become normal with proper treatment. The doctors may prescribe thyroid medicines for lifetime in some cases.