There are a wide range of causes for hypothyroidism, a medical condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the essential hormones for which it is responsible. These many possible causes will be discussed in detail below.
This is a very common cause of hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease wherein the body begins to produce antibodies against its own tissues, and attacks the thyroid. There is no universally agreed-upon cause for this disease, but it is the leading cause of underactive thyroid. This autoimmune disease causes the thyroid to stop producing hormones, thus affecting the body.
Hypothyroidism can be a complication of pregnancy, and appear during or after the woman has given birth. After giving birth, a woman may develop postpartum thyroiditis, in which the thyroid is inflamed, and symptoms such as hair loss, goiter (visibly enlarged, painless thyroid), depression, and low energy appear in the hypothyroid phase, while muscle aches, high anxiety, and irregular heartbeat, may appear in the hyperthyroid phase. The hypothyroid symptoms can also appear during pregnancy, and may be caused when the immune system begins to attack itself, as in a variation of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Having all or part of your thyroid removed for health reasons can lead to hypothyroidism that will have to be remedied with medication since there is no longer an organ to produce the hormones that the body needs. This medication will typically have to be taken for the rest of the patient’s life.
It is possible for a child to be born with a defective thyroid gland, or no thyroid gland at all. The child may display signs of this, including jaundice, and a bloated, protruding tongue, or, he or she may appear perfectly normal. Since one in four thousand babies are born with this congenital condition, awareness is being raised and now thorough screenings are now implemented in most American states to catch this as early as possible.
The mineral Iodine is needed to keep the thyroid gland functioning properly. Not eating enough organic bananas, strawberries, or potatoes, or even seafood can result in lowered iodine, and possibly lead to a malfunctioning thyroid. This is one of the many hypothyroidism causes that is preventable simply by eating nutrient-rich foods. On the other hand, a patient receiving too much iodine, such as in the case of radioactive Iodine therapy used for those either with cancer of the thyroid, or hyperthyroidism, can suffer hypothyroidism as well. Cold/sinus medications and exposure to too much of the dye given before X-rays may cause excess exposure to Iodine, and therefore, hypothyroidism.
Pituitary Gland Defect
This is one of the rarer causes of low thyroid. The pituitary gland may be unable to make enough of the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) that calls the thyroid into action. This may occur due to a tumor on the pituitary gland. The symptoms of hypothyroidism will become apparent usually during the adolescent years before, during or after puberty because of the hormones that are being stimulated during this growth process.
Certain medications that a patient may be what causes underactive thyroid in them. Amiodarone, used to treat heart conditions, may contribute to lowered thyroid in those taking it, as well as the psychiatric drug Lithium. There are also medications given to treat cancer that may cause hypothyroidism to arise.
An illness, such as amyloidosis, which occurs when abnormal proteins build up in the organs and begin to negatively affect them, can also cause hypothyroidism. This is a rare disease, and therefore not one of the main hypothyroid causes, however, it is possible for the proteins to build up in the thyroid and cause hypothyroidism.
Treatment for Hyperthyroidism
In some people, being repeatedly treated for an over-active thyroid will actually cause permanent damage, and the thyroid will stop producing hormones because of these medications, and hypothyroidism will occur and cannot be reversed. This is much more commonplace because the medication options for thyroid problems are still underway because hormones are difficult to manifest in a laboratory.
When being treated with radiation for cancer in the head, neck or chest, an adjacent hypothyroidism can occur because it affects the thyroid during the radiation process, and can sometimes not be treated. It has been reported that some patients choose to forego radiation because of these kind of side effects.
Hypothyroidism has a vast number of possible causes. Some of these can be remedied without lifelong medication, others cannot. In most cases, however, it may be a relief to know that underactive thyroid is treatable. Money is being poured into research to further understand hormones and their effect on the body, and many doctors hope to introduce new medications in the coming years to help those that are affected by this condition.