Hypothyroidism: Causes, Symptoms, and Management

woman having neck check up

Did you know that approximately 20 million Americans suffer from thyroid problems? Statistics show that more than three out of five individuals with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition. Currently, almost two percent of the population have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism worldwide. Due to the rising number of patients who are diagnosed with hypothyroidism in Provo, it is crucial to visit an endocrinologist at the earliest sign of disease.

What Is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a condition that is characterized by abnormal function of the thyroid gland, which is responsible for the production of hormones responsible for metabolism. Since women have an eight-fold risk of developing hypothyroidism, endocrinologists strongly emphasize the importance of regular laboratory workup, especially among females with familial predisposition. Gradual thyroid inactivity may occur due to several conditions that destroy the individual function of your thyroid cells.

What Causes Hypothyroidism?

The most common cause of hypothyroidism is autoimmune thyroiditis, which is a condition wherein your own immune cells mistakenly attack normal thyroid cells. Since the immune system is activated upon detection of foreign bodies, functional thyroid cells are normally preserved in a healthy individual. However, in some people, heightened immune function may cause self-destruction of normal thyroid cells. This leads to inflammation and subsequent destruction of the thyroid gland.

Another common cause of hypothyroidism is external surgical or medical management that has altered normal thyroid development. Radioactive iodine (RAI) is the mainstay of treatment in most cases of hyperfunctioning thyroid. Therefore, if an individual undergoes RAI treatment, he may experience rebound hypothyroidism due to the adverse effect of radiation. Surgical intervention may also cause a significant decline in thyroid hormone levels. Since surgical removal is the mainstay of treatment in thyroid malignancy, removal of this gland may cause an abrupt decrease in thyroid hormone.

What Are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?

constipated man lying on the couchThyroid hormone plays a major role in regulating the metabolic function of all organs in the body. Hence, hypothyroidism has significant effects on all the major organs of the body. Common clinical manifestations include excessive fatigue, weakness, irritability, and memory loss. You may also experience constipation, weight gain, skin dryness, and hair loss due to impaired metabolic function.

How Is Hypothyroidism Treated?

Hypothyroidism can be detected through examination by a physician and subsequent laboratory testing. Measurement of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), free T3 (FT3), and free T4 (FT4) may be done to determine if the patient’s clinical picture correlates with the laboratory results. Ultrasound of the neck and thyroid may also be done to check for the presence of nodules that alter thyroid hormone levels. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, supplementation through medication intake is done to treat the inactive thyroid gland and restore normal hormone levels.

Hypothyroidism is a disease that results in impairment in growth, metabolism, bone development, and energy use. Since most thyroid disorders respond to medical or surgical treatment, endocrinologists strongly recommend early testing to ensure an accurate diagnosis. Therefore, it is crucial to visit an endocrinologist for further workup to ensure immediate management of the disease.

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