What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones control the way the body uses energy (also known as metabolism). When the body doesn’t have enough of these important hormones, the metabolism slows down. Hypothyroidism is also called underactive thyroid disease.
Very low levels of thyroid hormones can cause severe problems throughout the body. But there’s good news: This condition is usually easy to treat with hormones.
What causes hypothyroidism?
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s Disease. In this condition, the body’s immune system starts to attack and damage the thyroid. Other causes of hypothyroidism include:
- Radiation and/or removal of the thyroid
- Inflammation of the thyroid
- Iodine deficiency
- Certain conditions passed down in the family
- Some medicines
There are also secondary causes of hypothyroidism. These happen when other parts of the body that make thyroid hormones stop working properly.
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
Symptoms of hypothyroidism can vary from person to person. And they can come up slowly over time. Common symptoms include:
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Thinning hair
- Heavy, irregular periods or fertility problems
- Intolerance to cold temperatures
- Body aches
- Slowed heart rate
Hypothyroidism can also contribute to high cholesterol levels. Without treatment, hypothyroidism can get worse and even cause life-threatening problems.
How can I manage hypothyroidism?
Getting a hypothyroidism diagnosis is the first step to treating it. Many symptoms of hypothyroidism can also be caused by other issues. Your doctor will use blood tests to confirm a diagnosis.
Hypothyroidism is generally treated by replacing the thyroid hormones that the body is missing. The main medicine is Levothyroxine, taken daily as a pill. People with hypothyroidism need to continue taking this medication throughout their lives.
Your doctor will use blood tests to monitor the levels of thyroid hormone in your body. The amount of medicine you need may change over time.
Your body uses iodine to make thyroid hormone. But high levels of iodine can be a problem for people with Hashimoto’s. That’s why your doctor may also mention iodine-rich foods to limit or avoid.