What Is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid, is a condition where the thyroid glands in the body do not produce enough vital hormones, and this can lead to several health issues. like infertility, joint pain, obesity, and heart diseases. Hypothyroidism is diagnosed through accurate tests that help in treating the individual to recover quickly.
What Causes Hypothyroidism?
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland situated in the front base of the neck below Adam’s apple. Thyroxine and Triiodothyronine are the hormones produced by the thyroid gland, which have an enormous impact on one’s health. When the thyroid glands do not produce enough hormones, an imbalance of the body’s chemical reaction occurs. And this failure to make the hormones mentioned above is the cause of hypothyroidism. They are due to:
- Iodine Deficiency
Iodine is a trace mineral found in plants grown in iodine-rich soil or seafood. It is essential to produce thyroid hormones and deficiency in iodine in the body, leading to hypothyroidism. Too many quantities of the same compound will worsen the situation in people already having the condition. This is why iodine is incorporated into table salt to eliminate the problem.
- Autoimmune Disease
One of the most prevalent causes of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The autoimmune disorder usually occurs when the immune system produces antibodies that attack the own tissues, which might happen to the thyroid glands. A combination of both genes and the environmental trigger is the reason for this, and those antibodies affect the thyroid gland’s ability to produce hormones.
Hypothyroidism is developed either during or after pregnancy. It occurs because the body produces antibodies to its thyroid gland. This leads to miscarriage, premature delivery, preeclampsia, increased blood pressure, and other conditions that will affect the fetus.
- Congenital Disease
Some people are born with a defective thyroid gland or no thyroid gland. In most cases, the underdeveloped thyroid glands are inherited as a heredity condition. Congenital hypothyroidism appears normal during birth, and hence it requires an essential screening during the newborn phase.
Thyroid surgery removes all or a portion of the thyroid gland to halt or reduce its production. This might trigger hypothyroidism due to the inability of the gland to produce sufficient amounts of the hormone.
- Radiation Therapy
Radiation is used to treat cancer, and it can also affect the thyroid glands leading to hypothyroidism.
Many drugs result in hypothyroidism, and lithium is the most common one used to treat psychiatric disorders.
- Pituitary disorder
The failure of the pituitary gland does not produce enough thyroid-stimulating hormone that is usually developing into a benign tumour in most cases and also results in hypothyroidism.
- Over response to Hyperthyroidism treatment
Hyperthyroidism is treated with anti-thyroid medications or radioactive iodine, and these treatments aim to make the thyroid function normally. But sometimes, the body responses too much and end up lowering the thyroid hormone production too much, causing hypothyroidism.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism?
There are various signs and hypothyroidism symptoms, and they vary from one person to another. The severity also affects them, and hence it is challenging to identify mainly during the early stages. As the thyroid gland activity becomes slower with time, the hypothyroidism symptoms start to become more identifiable. The initial indications will be weight gain and fatigue, and the other common symptoms of hypothyroidism are:
- Puffy face
- Decreased perspiration
- Increase in cholesterol levels
- Changes in the menstrual cycle
- Slow heart rate
- Loss of hair
- Stiffness in the joints and pain
- Impaired memory
- Dry skin
- Feeling cold
- Weak muscles
How To Test Hypothyroidism?
The necessary tests that are prevailing to determine and test an individual for hypothyroidism causes are:
- Blood tests
Blood tests are the only way to confirm hypothyroidism reliably, and it measures how much thyroid-stimulating hormone the pituitary gland creates. The body function is that if the thyroid is not producing enough hormones, then the pituitary gland will boost the TSH levels to increase hormone production. This test will state that if the person has hypothyroidism, the TSH levels in the body will be high as the body will be trying to stimulate more thyroid hormone activity. And if the person has hyperthyroidism, the TSH levels will be low, trying to stop excessive thyroid hormone production. By analyzing this, one can start the treatment for hypothyroidism immediately.
- Thyroxine test
This is another hypothyroidism test that is also useful in diagnosing hypothyroidism. T4 is another hormone that is directly produced by the thyroid glands, and a low level of T4 with a high level of TSH will denote that the person has hypothyroidism.
- Physical examination
A medical history and physical examination of an individual by an endocrinologist is another way to diagnose hypothyroidism and then go ahead with the treatment for hypothyroidism. The physician will look for slowed reflexes, dry skin, swelling of the neck, or a slow heart rate here accompanied by minor signs like fatigue, depression or a cold feeling all the time. The medical history is to rule out the family history of thyroid conditions.
What Is The Treatment For Hypothyroidism?
A proper hypothyroidism treatment must be done by oral medication with synthetic thyroid hormone known as levothyroxine. There will be immediate results with this, and one will start to feel much better with the medicine. It also gradually lowers cholesterol levels and reverses weight gain. Levothyroxine may be a lifelong drug for such people though the dosage may differ, and patients with hypothyroidism must check their TSH levels every year. This check-up is required to determine whether the dosage levels are suitable for the person. If there are higher amounts of hormones produced due to the treatment, the person might develop side effects like sleeplessness, shakiness, an increase in appetite, and palpitations of the heart.
Hypothyroidism affects 2% of the world population, and eating the proper nutrients with the help of medications will help improve the condition and reduce the symptoms. Nutrients that are great for the thyroid are selenium, zinc, and iodine. Hence it is essential to follow a thyroid-friendly diet to minimize the symptoms and manage weight. This leads to the consumption of whole, unprocessed and protein-rich foods.