WHAT IS HYPOTHYROIDISM?
Hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid, is a condition where your thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones (T3 ,T4) leading to generalised slowing down of metabolic processes in the body.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF HYPOTHYROIDISM?
Some of the causative factors of hypothyroidism are:
• A family history of autoimmune thyroid disease, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune condition that harms thyroid cells)
• An injury to the thyroid or surgical removal of thyroid gland
• The use of radioactive iodine therapy, a treatment for hyperthyroidism (a condition when too much thyroid hormone is produced)
• Any inflammation of the thyroid gland
• Taking medications that contain lithium or iodine
WHO ARE AT RISK OF DEVELOPING HYPOTHYROIDISM?
There are a number of factors that can increase the risk of developing hypothyroidism. These include:
• Being female
• Being of an older age
• Having a family history of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or any other autoimmune disease
• Having a personal history of an autoimmune disease (like adrenal insufficiency, rheumatoid arthritis, or type 1 diabetes)
• Being pregnant or postpartum
• Too much or too little iodine consumption
• Received radiation to the neck or upper chest
• Treated with certain medications (for example, lithium for bipolar disorder)
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HYPOTHYROIDISM?
Symptoms of hypothyroidism vary in persons depending on the magnitude of thyroid hormone deficiency. Some of the common symptioms are:
• Fatigue and weakness
• weight gain
• hair loss
• Dry skin
• intolerance to cold
• Menstrual disturbances
Untreated longterm cases can also present with a swelling in the front of the neck called as goitre.
Some patients may also have hoarseness in voice, edema and hearing difficulty.
HOW IS HYPOTHYROIDISM DIAGNOSED?
Hypothyroidism is diagnosed with a blood test. People with a TSH level above the normal range, with lowered levels of thyroid gland hormones, are considered to have hypothyroidism.
HOW DO YOU TREAT HYPOTHYROIDISM?
Synthetic thyroxine (T4) supplementation is the treatment of choice. The goal of treatment is to supplement thyroid hormone and normalise TSH levels in the body. The dosage of thyroxine will depend on the age, the requirement, the severity and the duration of hypothyroidism.
TSH should be measured every 2-3 months to see the adequacy of the supplementation.
WHAT IS THE BEST DIET TO FOLLOW?
There is not many scientific evidence that eating or not eating certain foods will definitely help to treat hypoythyroidism. It is important, however, to get an optimal amount of iodine in your diet. Too little iodine can lead to hypothyroidism. Good sources of iodine include iodized table salt, saltwater fish, dairy products, and eggs.
The single best thing you can do for your thyroid function is to eat a well-balanced and nutrient rich diet.
WHAT HAPPENS IF HYPOTHYROIDISM IS LEFT UNTREATED?
Hypothyroidism is a common condition that responds well to thyroid supplementation. But if left untreated, it can lead to many health issues. The thyroid gland under the stress to produce thyroid hormone, becomes big leading to an externally visible swelling in the front of the neck called as goiter.
Untreated hypothyroidism will lead on to unchecked weight gain which will result in obesity, which can badly affect cardiovascular functions. Patients also face an increased risk of developing atherosclerosis.
Hypothyroidism is often associated with low moods and depression.Hence if left untreated, it may lead to mental health issues also. Hypothyroidism may also be a cause of infertility and can contribute to difficulties in conception in women.
In extreme cases, when hypothyroidism is left untreated for a long time, a life-threatening condition called myxedema may occur. In this condition, the patient falls into a coma as the body’s metabolism is slowed down to an extreme degree. Myxedema can be life-threatening and fatal.