Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland isn’t producing enough hormone. More than three million cases of hypothyroidism occur in the United States each year. Although each hypothyroidism patient experiences a different combination of symptoms, the symptoms of most people’s hypothyroidism are usually mentioned on this list:
- Abnormal Menstrual Cycles
- Coarse and Dry Hair
- Cold Intolerance
- Decreased Libido
- Dry, Rough, Pale Skin
- Increased Sensitivity
- Hair Loss
- Memory Loss
- Muscle Cramps and Aches
- Weight Gain
If you have an autoimmune disorder (a condition in which your body’s immune system attacks its healthy tissues), like rheumatoid arthritis, Addison’s disease, or type 1 diabetes, and you are experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism, you need to talk to your doctor about getting tested for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
What Causes Hypothyroidism?
There are many potential causes of hypothyroidism, which branch into three categories: abnormal growths, medications, and thyroid issues. It is possible for abnormal growths to invade your thyroid, taking the place of your healthy tissues.
Disorders that cause this are:
- Genetic Defects: Most genetic causes of hypothyroidism are apparent in your early infancy. Sometimes the genes that regulate your thyroid hormones may be damaged. This damage would directly affect your thyroid hormone production, potentially causing hypothyroidism.
- Pituitary Issues: A problem or tumor in your pituitary gland may impact your pituitary gland’s ability to produce thyroid stimulating hormones. Without the “signal” from your pituitary, your thyroid will not produce and secrete the necessary hormones.
- Sarcoidosis: Inflamed tissues form throughout your body and replace healthy thyroid tissue. This replacement inhibits your thyroid’s ability to produce hormones, resulting in hypothyroidism.
Some medications are known to cause hypothyroidism. These medications are:
- Amiodarone: This drug is usually used to treat heart rhythm issues. Amiodarone has a high iodine content, which can inhibit the release and synthesis of your thyroid hormone. Iodine is critical to the health of your thyroid– but too big or small an amount can cause your thyroid to stop working correctly.
- Anti-Thyroid Medications: These medications, which treat overactive thyroid glands, can ironically cause hypothyroidism if they are prescribed for too high of a dosage.
- Interferon-Alpha: Patients with malignant tumors and those with hepatitis b and c use this medication. A small percentage of them develop a thyroid disorder
- Interleukin-2: Usually prescribed to patients with metastatic cancers and leukemia. About 2% of patients on this drug develop thyroid disorders.
- Lithium: This drug slows down the production and release of thyroid hormones as well as treating depression and bipolar disorder. However, the thyroid production is slowed down so significantly that around 1/4 of patients develop hypothyroidism.
Issues with the Thyroid
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: A condition associated with hypothyroidism.
- Surgical Removal of the Thyroid: You will inevitably develop hypothyroidism if your thyroid is removed; hopefully your doctor will have started you on a course of thyroid hormone replacement therapy before you start experiencing symptoms.
- Congenital Thyroid Agenesis: When you are born without a thyroid.
- Radioactive Iodine Therapy: When your thyroid is destroyed by radioactive iodine, a common treatment for thyroid cancer patients as well as hypothyroidism patients.
Your doctor will administer what is known as the TSH test. TSH stands for thyroid stimulating hormone. Your thyroid stimulating hormone is created by your pituitary gland, a tiny organ below your brain and behind your sinus cavities. Your pituitary is part of the feedback system in your body; it maintains a stable amount of the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine in your blood. TSH tests are frequently done alongside other tests. If you are suspected to have an autoimmune-related thyroid disease, your doctor may administer a T3 test and a thyroid antibody test. These tests performed together are referred to as a thyroid panel.
If you are pregnant, and your thyroid goes untreated, it can lead to delays in physical and intellectual development in your baby. This disorder is known as cretinism is a congenital disorder passed by a mother with hypothyroidism that isn’t treated. However, most of the cases of cretinism in the world are caused by an iodine deficiency.
Although there is no way to guarantee the prevention of hypothyroidism, you can keep it from becoming debilitating if you recognize the signs, diagnose yourself early, and get treatment before your hypothyroidism progresses into something worse.
It is up to you whether you want to go with a prescriptive approach to hypothyroidism, a natural approach, or a combination of both.
Synthetic Thyroid Hormone Replacement: Standard prescriptive treatment for hypothyroidism. Levothyroxine is the oral medication that will likely be administered to you. Levothyroxine restores hormone levels and reverses the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism. However, determining the proper dosage can be tricky. Your doctor will work with you, monitoring your dosage and side effects to find the correct amount for you.
Natural extracts of thyroid hormone derived from the thyroid glands of pigs are available to you, as are other alternative medicine treatments. Together, you and your doctor can find a treatment plan that is right for your body’s specific needs.
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