In this article, i will be taking you through Hypothyroidism, signs and symptoms, causes and treatment.

The thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped organ located at the base of your throat, plays a vital role in regulating your body’s metabolism. It produces hormones, primarily thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), that influence various functions, including heart rate, digestion, energy expenditure, and even mood. When the thyroid gland becomes underactive and doesn’t produce enough of these hormones, a condition called hypothyroidism develops.

This article delves into the complexities of hypothyroidism, exploring its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and potential complications. By equipping yourself with knowledge, you can become an informed patient or caregiver if you or someone you know faces this condition.

thyroid disorders - hyperthyroidism

Unveiling the Culprit: Causes of Underactive Thyroid

Underactive Thyroid can arise due to various factors that impair the thyroid gland’s ability to produce sufficient hormones. Here’s a breakdown of the most common causes:

  • Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: This autoimmune disorder is the leading cause of hypothyroidism, accounting for roughly 90% of cases [1]. In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland, leading to chronic inflammation and progressive destruction of thyroid tissue.
  • Treatment for Underactive Thyroid: If you have previously received treatment for hyperthyroidism, such as radioactive iodine ablation or surgery (thyroidectomy), it’s possible for the thyroid gland to become underactive as a consequence. This is known as post-ablative or post-surgical hypothyroidism.
  • Thyroiditis: Inflammation of the thyroid gland, such as subacute thyroiditis or postpartum thyroiditis, can disrupt hormone production and lead to temporary or permanent hypothyroidism.
  • Iodine Deficiency: While uncommon in developed countries with iodized salt, iodine deficiency is a significant cause of an Underactive Thyroid globally. Iodine is a crucial component of thyroid hormones, and a lack of it can impair their production.
  • Congenital Hypothyroidism: This condition is present at birth and affects about 1 in 4,000 newborns [2]. It can arise due to various developmental abnormalities of the thyroid gland or problems with hormone production.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as lithium (used for bipolar disorder) and some types of anti-cancer drugs, can interfere with thyroid function and contribute to hypothyroidism.

The Body in Slow Motion: Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Underactive Thyroid often presents with a constellation of subtle symptoms that develop gradually over time. These symptoms can vary depending on the severity of hormone deficiency and the individual’s age. Here are some common signs to watch out for:

  • Fatigue and lethargy: This is a hallmark symptom of hypothyroidism and can significantly impact your energy levels and ability to perform daily activities.
  • Unexplained weight gain or difficulty losing weight: Even with a normal diet and exercise routine, you might experience weight gain due to a slowed metabolism.
  • Feeling cold intolerance: You might feel constantly cold, even in warm environments, due to the body’s decreased ability to generate heat.
  • Dry, itchy skin and brittle hair: The skin can become dry, pale, and itchy, while hair might become thin, brittle, and lose its luster.
  • Muscle weakness and cramps: Muscle aches, weakness, and stiffness are common complaints in hypothyroidism.
  • Joint pain: You might experience unexplained joint pain or stiffness.
  • Constipation: Hypothyroidism can slow down your digestive system, leading to constipation.
  • Heavy or irregular menstrual periods: Women with hypothyroidism might experience irregular or heavy menstrual periods.
  • Depression and mood changes: Hypothyroidism can affect mood, leading to feelings of depression, anxiety, irritability, or difficulty concentrating.
  • Cognitive decline: In severe or long-standing cases, hypothyroidism can impair memory, concentration, and overall cognitive function.
  • Changes in voice and speech: Your voice might become hoarse or raspy.
  • Slow heart rate and sluggishness: A slower heart rate and a general feeling of sluggishness are common.

Diagnosis Unmasked: Identifying Hypothyroidism

If you experience a combination of these symptoms, it’s crucial to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis. Early detection and treatment are essential to prevent potential complications and improve your quality of life. Here’s what you can expect during the diagnostic process:

  • Medical history and physical examination: Your doctor will inquire about your symptoms, family history of thyroid problems, and any medications you’re taking. They will also perform a physical examination, checking for signs of dry skin, hair changes, slow heart rate, and swelling of the thyroid gland (goiter).
  • Blood tests: Blood tests are the cornerstone of diagnosing hypothyroidism. These tests measure the levels of thyroid hormones

By Henf Henf

Am Henfrey Wangulu, a Clinical Officer/Physician associate based in Kenya. I am a Tech and Health enthusiast and in my free time, I like Swimming, Art and socializing with other people

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