One of the most important glands in the human body is the thyroid. Located in the neck, the thyroid produces a range of hormones that are necessary for the proper everyday function of your body. These hormones affect your metabolism on a deep level, affecting everything from mental acuity to the efficiency of your digestive system.
When the thyroid is not producing enough of these hormones, the condition is called hypothyroidism, meaning an underactive thyroid.
Symptoms of An Underactive Thyroid
If you are suffering from hypothyroidism, it can cause dramatic effects on your day-to-day life, including:
- Weight gain
- Fluid retention
- Constant feelings of being cold
- Dry skin and hair
- Fluid retention
- Mental slowness or confusion
- Loss of sex drive
If left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to more serious complications over time, such as:
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Anemia (reduced red blood cells)
- Pregnancy complications, such as pre-eclampsia, premature labor, or even stillbirth
- Persistent feelings of sickness or unwellness
- Increasing mental problems, depression, forgetfulness, etc.
In short, having an underactive thyroid is a genuinely dangerous condition, and the symptoms will add up over time. Because the symptoms of an underactive thyroid are similar to many other conditions, or could even simply be attributed to weight gain, hypothyroidism sometimes goes undetected.
On the whole, approximately 1-2% of the population suffers from hypothyroidism. Women are ten times as likely to have an underactive thyroid as men.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Hypothyroidism
Diagnosis is relatively easy and only requires a blood sample. The blood will be tested for the presence of certain hormones created by the thyroid, such as TSH and Thyroxine. Only a doctor and certified blood labs can properly diagnose an underactive thyroid.
Treatment of hypothyroidism is also relatively simple. Most of the time, all that is needed is to take prescribed pills containing thyroxine, the most critical of the missing hormones. These pills are typically taken on an empty stomach, to ensure nothing in the stomach interferes with the absorption of the thyroxine.
Unfortunately, there is currently no true cure for hypothyroidism. These hormone supplements will likely need to be taken for the rest of the patient’s life. Occasionally the thyroid self-corrects, but these situations are rare and – so far – medical science has been unable to determine why.
RCMC Medical Center