A lower level of circulating thyroid hormone in the body is known as hypothyroidism. Generally it is associated with underactivity of the thyroid gland in producing the thyroid hormones which are essential for various metabolic reactions, growth and development of an individual. It is also required for functioning of various systems and organ within the body. A lower level of the hormone affects these systems and causes disturbances in different parts of the body.
Symptoms of Low Thyroid Hormones
- The general symptoms include feeling of tiredness, lethargy and increased weight.
- The patient develops constipation and intolerance towards cold.
- Changes in voice such as hoarseness of voice or low pitched voice are often associated with hypothyroidism. The speech becomes slurry in nature and hearing loss may also be accompanied.
- The patient generally experiences depression and psychosis.
- The thyroid gland is often enlarged.
- The skin changes include generalized edema and purple discoloration of the skin and lips.
- The scalp becomes dry and flaky and hair loss is commonly experienced.
- The circulatory system is also affected leading to increase blood pressure and decreased heart rate.
- Anemias commonly develop in hypothyroidism.
- The muscles become stiffened and associated with pain. The patients may develop Carpel Tunnel syndrome.
- The lack of thyroid hormone also affects the reproductive system, leading to irregular menstrual periods, infertilty and impotence.
Causes of an Underactive Thyroid Gland
The condition commonly affects middle aged females. Stress significantly increases the risk of thyroid problems. Hypothyroidism more commonly occurs in populations suffering from severe iodine deficiency as iodine is a major component in production of the thyroid hormone within the body.
The congenital form of hypothyroidism is referred as cretinism. Few women develop hypothyroidism after childbirth known as postpartum thyroditis. This condition is associated with inflammation of the thyroid gland.
Certain conditions causing hypothyroidism are inherited disorders such as Hashimoto’s thyroditis. This is an auto-immune disorder, where the body produces antibodies against the thyroid gland.
Drugs used to treat heart disorders such as amiodarone and lithium based drug used in treating bipolar mood disorders also lead to development of hypothyroidism.
The condition can also develop in individuals being treated for hyperthyroidism. Exposure to radioactive iodine therapy, radiation to head and neck region and thyroid removal surgeries significantly increase the risk of developing hypothyroidism.
Treatment for Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is generally treated with supplements of thyroid hormone. The thyroid replacement therapy includes various combinations of T3 and T4 thyroid hormone. The replacement therapy is generally indicated for life long. Levothyroxine is prescribed in lowest possible doses. Other medications such as antacids, multivitamins and calcium and iron supplements are to be avoided along with the thyroid replacement medications.
The hormone replacement should be done cautiously in patient with heart disease. The patient on thyroid replacement should be observed for symptoms such as palpitations, sweating and weight loss, these could be the side effects of overcompensation of the thyroid hormone. The patient is advised to consume iodine supplements in case of iodine deficiency. If any underlying cause is present it is diagnosed and treated.