Hypothyroidism

Everything you need to know.

What is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland cannot make enough thyroid hormone to keep your body functioning appropriately. In simpler terms it is known as an under-active thyroid gland, shown in the picture to the right. This disease was first recognized by physicians in 1874 when William Gull, an English doctor, discussed in in a paper he wrote.

What are the warning signs?

If you think there is a chance of you having hypothyroidism, check and see if you are experiencing dry skin, forgetfulness/depression, constipation, hair loss, hoarse voice, facial puffiness, slow speech, bradycardia (slow heart rate), or if you tire easily. All of these are symptoms of hypothyroidism. Most of those indicators can seem relatively harmless, but this disease can actually cause psychiatric disorders which start subtly and gradually develop over time. Lastly, the most commonly seen symptom of hypothyroidism is delayed relaxation of deep tendon reflexes, better explained in the diagram to the left

How is Hypothyroidism caused?

Hypothyroidism can be caused in a few different scenarios. It is possible to contract this disease if you have been exposed to surgery, radiation, or some particular types of drugs, Lithium being the most common. Also, hypothyroidism can be caused by an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid gland. In most cases the patients thyroid gland does not function properly after the disease attacks, causing not enough thyroid hormone being produced. As said previously, this is exactly how hypothyroidism starts. Lastly, the picture on the right shows how hypothyroidism can develop in people who have inherited the recessive gene from their parents. This genetic disorder is a defect of the TPO gene on chromosome two.

How do you treat it?

The first step to treating Hypothyroidism is knowing if you have it for sure. If you believe you have this disease, talk to your doctor and they will be able to conduct a blood test for TSH levels. This is used for evaluating thyroid function. If it is confirmed with your doctor, one way to treat it is a with synthetic form of thyroxine (thyroid hormone), shown in the picture to the left. Another, riskier option is a complete thyroid replacement. Hypothyroidism is 2 times more commonly seen in women than men and is mostly seen in older women rather than younger.

Can Hypothyroidism have a big impact on your life?

Hypothyroidism's impact on your life will depend on the patient. It will not alter your life expectancy. In fact, most people who experience Hypothyroidism let it go untreated and even undiagnosed. However, different people may encounter different symptoms and different outcomes.

Where can I go for support?

Look for local support groups in areas near you, or you can even search the internet. There are hundreds of online support groups and one in particular is "Thyroid Disorders Community". If you are need for support or are interested in hearing other peoples' experiences dealing with thyroid disorders, visit www.medhelp.org.