What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland, is a butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of the neck. Does not produce enough hormones. These hormones, called thyroid hormones, play a crucial role in regulating the body’s metabolism and energy levels. Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include fatigue, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, dry skin, and constipation. The condition can be causative due to a variety of factors, including autoimmune disorders, radiation therapy, and certain medications. It can be treated with hormone replacement therapy.
How does your thyroid work?
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of the neck. It produces hormones called thyroid hormones, which play a crucial role in regulating the body’s metabolism and energy levels. The thyroid gland uses iodine, a mineral found in many foods, to make these hormones.
The pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, releases a hormone called thyrotropin-stimulating hormone (TSH) that stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. When the levels of thyroid hormones in the blood are low as a result the pituitary gland releases more TSH, which signals the thyroid gland to produce more hormones. When the levels of thyroid hormones in the blood are high. The pituitary gland releases less TSH, which signals the thyroid gland to produce less hormones.
In addition to regulating metabolism, thyroid hormones also play a role in regulating heart rate, body temperature, and nervous system function. They also affect growth and development and play a role in the function of many other organs and systems in the body.
Therefore, thyroid hormone levels need to be in control. If there’s a problem with this process, like not producing enough hormones, it can lead to hypothyroidism, and if there is overproduction it can lead to hyperthyroidism.
What are the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism?
The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism can vary depending on the severity of the hormone deficiency, but some common ones are as follows:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Sensitivity to cold temperatures
- Dry, thinning hair and brittle nails
- Dry, rough, and pale skin
- Slow heart rate
- Hoarse voice
- Muscle cramps and aches
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Irregular menstrual periods in women
- Infertility and decreased libido in men
- An enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
It’s important to note that some of these symptoms can be causative due to other conditions, so it’s important to see a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis. Also, some people may have no symptoms of hypothyroidism, or only mild symptoms, but it can still cause problems if left untreated.
How diagnosis of Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism diagnosis typically involves a combination of physical examination, symptoms, and laboratory tests. The following tests are commonly used to diagnose hypothyroidism:
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test: TSH is produced by the pituitary gland and stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. In people with hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones, so the pituitary gland releases more TSH. High levels of TSH and low levels of thyroid hormones in the blood suggest hypothyroidism.
- Thyroxine (T4) test: T4 is the main thyroid hormone thyroid gland. Low levels of T4 in the blood suggest hypothyroidism.
- Free triiodothyronine (FT3) test: FT3 is a form of thyroid hormone that is also thyroid specific. Therefore low levels of FT3 in the blood suggest hypothyroidism.
- Thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOab) test: Some people with hypothyroidism have an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which causes inflammation and damage to the thyroid gland. TPOab test is used to detect if this autoimmune disorder is present.
- Thyroglobulin antibodies (TgAb) test: Similar to TPOab, the TgAb test is capable of detecting the presence of autoimmune disorder in people with hypothyroidism
Your healthcare provider may also perform a physical examination to look for signs of hypothyroidism such as an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter) or dry, pale skin, as well as ask about your symptoms and medical history.
If the diagnosis of hypothyroidism is confirmed, then the healthcare provider will recommend the appropriate treatment and follow-up monitoring to ensure that the thyroid hormone levels are in the normal range and that the symptoms are being managed.
Treatment of Hypothyroidism:
The primary treatment for hypothyroidism is hormone replacement therapy, which involves taking a daily dose of the thyroid hormone levothyroxine (Synthroid, Levoxyl, Unithroid, and others). This medication is a synthetic version of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4), which your thyroid gland normally produces. As a result, the medication is in pill form. And is usually taken once a day on an empty stomach.
It’s important to have regular blood tests to monitor the levels of thyroid hormones in the blood. Adjust the dose of levothyroxine as needed. It may take several weeks or months to achieve the optimal dose, and it may be necessary to adjust the dose periodically throughout life, especially during pregnancy or if you develop other health problems.
It’s also important to follow a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and regular exercise, as well as avoiding exposure to toxins, such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, as it can affect the treatment’s effectiveness.
In cases where hypothyroidism is caused due to an autoimmune disorder such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Treatment may also include immune-suppressing medications to help slow down the progression of the autoimmune disorder.
It’s important to work closely with a healthcare provider, as untreated or undertreated hypothyroidism can lead to serious health problems.