Hypothyroidism is a common health problem in which the thyroid gland is not producing enough of the essential hormones needed in metabolism, growth, and so on. It affects 12% of Americans, most of whom are women, and causes abound. This article will discuss the symptoms of hypothyroidism, as well as the signs, and how the disorder is diagnosed and typically treated.
What are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
Those with hypothyroidism symptoms will most likely find themselves gaining weight, and having trouble losing it, as well as suffering constant fatigue, depressed or irritable mood, loss of memory, constipation, muscle pain and cramping, inability to concentrate and loss of sexual appetite.
In cases where hypothyroidism has progressed considerably, the affected may speak slower than normal, suffer anemia (not enough iron in the blood), decreased heart rate, deafness, and be less sensitive to taste and smell. Symptoms of Myxedema coma, a very serious, but rare form of hypothyroidism that may occur if the condition is not treated, include the sufferer displaying moods uncharacteristic of their usual selves. See below for continued signs.
Another possible cause of low thyroid function symptoms is that of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the immune system is attacking the thyroid, causing thyroid dysfunction. This results in inflammation, any or all signs, and any or all symptoms of hypothyroidism. Someone with underactive thyroid may be suffering only a few, or all of the items on the hypothyroidism symptoms checklist, with differing severity.
What are the Signs of Hypothyroidism?
As for the more objective signs of underactive thyroid, one may incur erratic menstrual cycles, inability to conceive, inability to achieve erection in men, hair loss, thicker, drier hair; rough, dry, pallid skin; or a vocal hoarseness. Those with Myxedema coma may display lowered blood pressure, lowered blood sugar, decreased breathing rate, and an inability to withstand cold, as well as be unresponsive.
In babies who may have been born without a thyroid, signs include jaundice, or yellow-colored skin and sclera (whites of the eyes); constant choking, puffy face, and the tell-tale bloated, protruding tongue. If it is allowed to progress into childhood, stunted growth may occur, causing the child to be shorter than normal; the child may also endure issues such as abnormally late puberty, late development of adult teeth, and possibly stunted mental development, leading to mental deficiency.
Most states in the U.S. now implement a mandatory thyroid screening at birth to catch a defective thyroid in a child, or no thyroid at all, and be able to treat it early. It is imperative, particularly if these signs are seen in young children, to report the potential signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism to your doctor as soon as it is detected.
How is it Diagnosed?
Underactive thyroid is diagnosed via blood tests that assess the levels of thyroxine, the main hormone contributed by the thyroid, and TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). If TSH is too high, and thyroxine is not high enough, the patient may have hypothyroidism. According to some experts, the TSH testing is not reliable. There are cheaper and more reliable testing methods based on the Hypothyroid Revolution program and can be done on your home. You can find more information about it here
A physical exam is often given to feel for either an enlarged, or abnormally small thyroid gland. A thyroid ultrasound may be implemented to scan the thyroid if any anomalies are detected during the physical. Signs/symptoms hypothyroidism are typically treated with one, or a combination of pills, including levothyroxine, Levoxyl, and Levothroid, among others, which the patient must be on for life.
Hormone replacement therapy may be used in conjunction with medication, or in place of it. It cannot be stressed enough that symptoms of low thyroid function can worsen, and possibly kill the patient if allowed to go without medical care. Other possible complications include the development of heart disease, and in the case of a pregnant woman, the possibility of giving birth prematurely, and/or pre-eclampsia, in which the pregnant woman develops high blood pressure, and incurs organ damage, typically to the kidneys, putting the child and woman at risk.
A goiter may form where the thyroid has been stimulated to the point of enlarging abnormally, and can result in difficulties breathing or swallowing. It is worth it to get even mild signs and symptoms of low thyroid checked out.
Most of those who seek medical care for underactive thyroid go on to live perfectly fine lives as long as they continue their medication. It is a life-long commitment with the medication since it is basically replacing the hormones that your thyroid is failing to produce, but it is not worth it to be uncomfortable, and in some serious danger if the condition is left untreated.
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