Hypothyroidism is a condition where low levels of thyroid hormones affect various body parts.
Thyroid hormones are needed for the body to function normally. The hormones regulate growth and metabolism, thus influencing every function of the body. Hypothyroidism may produce the following symptoms:
- Decreased tolerance to cold
- Weight gain
- Puffy face
- Pain in the joints and muscles
- Dry skin
- Thin and dry hair
- Reduced sweating
- Irregular or heavy periods
- Fertility issues in women
- Bradycardia (slow heart rate)
- Goitre (swelling in the front of the neck due to an enlarged thyroid gland. It can cause problems with breathing and swallowing besides affecting the person’s appearance.)
Untreated hypothyroidism can cause complications such as:
- Goitre: This refers to swelling in front of the neck due to an enlarged thyroid gland. When the thyroid gland does not secrete enough thyroid hormones, the pituitary gland stimulates it constantly to release more hormones. Goitre can cause problems with breathing due to mechanical pressure on the windpipe. It can cause problems with swallowing besides affecting the person’s appearance.
- Slowing of metabolism: This may make the person feel tired easily and cause weight gain. It can also cause constipation.
- Heart problems: There may be an increased risk of heart disease and heart failure. This mainly occurs due to high levels of bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL).
- Skin and hair problems: The skin may become rough and dry. There may be hair fall or thinning of the hair.
- Mental health issues: Slowed mental function and depression may occur.
- Nerve damage: Hypothyroidism can cause peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage). This may cause numbness, pain, and tingling in the affected areas.
- Sexual and reproductive issues: Hypothyroidism can cause lowered fertility and sex drive in both men and women. Women may experience longer and heavier periods. In some, the periods may stop occurring. In pregnant women, it can cause high blood pressure, high chances of miscarriage, and premature delivery and hamper the mental and physical development of the baby.
- Myxedema coma: It is a rare and life-threatening condition. It occurs when severe hypothyroidism is left untreated for long. It manifests as severe cold intolerance, confusion, drowsiness, lethargy, and unconsciousness.
- Poor musculature: Poor muscle tone is seen in hypothyroidism. This may cause joint pains and an increased tendency for tenosynovitis (covering of the tendon sheath).
Because thyroid hormones play an important role in growth and development, hypothyroidism can cause additional problems in children and teens such as follows:
- Growth restriction that may result in a short stature
- Delayed puberty
- Compromised mental development
- Delayed development of permanent teeth
What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a condition where low levels of thyroid hormones affect various body parts. The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped endocrine gland (a gland that secretes a substance called a hormone into the bloodstream). It is normally located in the front of the neck. It produces the thyroid hormones, which are released into the blood and then carried to various tissues in the body. Thyroid hormones are needed for the body to use energy, maintain body temperature, and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working properly. Hypothyroidism is a medical condition in which the thyroid gland becomes underactive. The gland is not able to make enough thyroid hormone to keep the body functioning normally. Lab investigations show that people with hypothyroidism have low thyroid hormone levels in their blood. Some of the common causes of this condition are autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, viral infection of the thyroid gland, surgical removal of the thyroid, and radiation treatment. Hypothyroidism is a common condition affecting around 4.6% of the US population aged 12 years and older.
Does menopause put you at a risk of hypothyroidism?
Women are more likely to get hypothyroidism after menopause than earlier in life. Hypothyroidism is a common condition affecting around 4.6% of the US population aged 12 years and older. It is particularly common in women aged above 60 years. Hypothyroidism, however, can affect people of all genders, ages, and ethnic backgrounds.