What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism, also called underactive thyroid disease, is the condition in which your thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland located in the front lower part of your neck. Hormones released by the gland travel through the bloodstream and affect nearly every part of the body, from one’s heart and brain, to muscles and skin. Without the right amount of thyroid hormones the body’s natural functions begin to slow down. If you are dealing with hypothyroidism or are doubtful about the same then worry not, you’ve stumbled into the right place. Let’s take a quick look at all contributing factors, symptoms and solutions to hypothyroidism.
Causes of hypothyroidism
There may be multiple reasons as to why your thyroid gland is not able to produce adequate hormones which leads to hypothyroidism. Some of the reasons are:
- Autoimmune disease: Your immune system is designed to protect your body’s cells against invading bacteria and viruses. When unknown bacteria or viruses enter your body, your immune system responds by sending out fighter cells to destroy the foreign cells. Sometimes, your body confuses normal, healthy cells for invading cells. This is called an autoimmune response. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the autoimmune disorder which fuels your body to produce antibodies that attack and destroy the thyroid gland. Thyroiditis may also be caused by a viral infection.
- Radiation therapy: Treating certain cancers, such as lymphoma, requires radiation to the neck. Radiation damages the cells in the thyroid. This makes it more difficult for the gland to produce hormones.
- A response to hyperthyroidism treatment: People who produce too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) are often treated with radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications. The goal of these treatments is to get thyroid function back to normal. But sometimes, correcting hyperthyroidism can end up lowering thyroid hormone production too much, resulting in permanent hypothyroidism.
- Medications: Certain medicines to treat heart problems, psychiatric conditions (lithium based medicines), and cancer can sometimes affect the production of thyroid hormone.
- Thyroid surgery: Removing all or a large portion of your thyroid gland can diminish or halt hormone production. If only a part of the thyroid is removed, the remaining gland may still be able to produce enough hormone for the body’s needs.
- Iodine deficiency: The thyroid needs iodine to produce thyroid hormone. An iodine rich diet is important to counter hypothyroidism.
- Problems with the gland at birth: Some babies may be born with a thyroid gland that did not develop correctly or does not work properly. This type of hypothyroidism is called congenital hypothyroidism.
- Hereditary conditions: Hypothyroidism could also be a medical condition passed down through your family lineage.
- Pregnancy: Some women face post-partum hypothyroidism but in most of these cases, the thyroid gland will restore its functioning on its own.
Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism vary from person to person depending on severity of the hormone deficiency and pre-existing co morbidities. The symptoms also then to develop over a period of time rather than all at once. The symptoms may include:
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Weight gain
- Elevated blood cholesterol level
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
- Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
- Thinning hair
- Slowed heart rate
- Enlarged thyroid gland (Goitre)
Diagnosis for hypothyroidism
Since the symptoms are so varied and so dynamic, seeking help for hypothyroidism could be quite hard. If you encounter one or more of these symptoms together for a prolonged period of time then definitely consider seeking medical help. Two primary tools are used to determine if you have hypothyroidism; a medical evaluation and blood tests.
Doctor will complete a thorough physical exam and medical history. They’ll check for physical signs of hypothyroidism, including:
- dry skin
- slowed reflexes
- swelling in the neck
- a slower heart rate
In addition, your doctor will ask you to report any symptoms you’ve been experiencing, such as fatigue, depression, constipation, or constantly feeling cold. If you have a known family history of thyroid conditions, tell your doctor during this exam.
Blood tests are the only way to reliably confirm a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. A thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test measures how much TSH your pituitary gland is creating:
- If your TSH levels are high, it may imply that you have hypothyroidism, as your body is trying to stimulate more thyroid hormone activity.
- If your TSH levels are low, it may imply that you may have hyperthyroidism, as your body is trying to stop excessive thyroid hormone production.
A thyroxine (T4) level test is also useful in diagnosing hypothyroidism. T4 is one of the hormones directly produced by your thyroid. Used together, T4 and TSH tests help evaluate thyroid function. Typically, if you have a low level of T4 along with a high level of TSH, you have hypothyroidism. However, since there is a plethora of thyroid diseases, other thyroid function tests may be necessary to properly diagnose your condition.
Treatment for hypothyroidism
In most cases, hypothyroidism is treated by prescribing a hormone replacement for thyroid that your body is no longer making. One medication that is commonly used is called levothyroxine. Taken orally, this medication increases the amount of thyroid hormone your body produces, evening out your levels. More often people with hypothyroidism must remain on this medication their entire lives. However, it’s unlikely you’ll continue to take the same dose, especially if you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
To make sure your medication is still working properly, you should get a TSH test done yearly. Apart from this, be sure to include foods rich in iodine like spinach, seaweed, seafood etc.
Hypothyroidism is a manageable disease and hence will not affect the functioning of your life, provided you follow all medications and health related practices.
To help you manage your hypothyroidism holistically, &Me has launched &Me ThyroDiet, Thyroid Tea.
&Me ThyroDiet tea has a unique nutritional formula:
- Tyrosine and Iodine, when consumed, work together to produce T3 (1T + 3I) and T4 (1T+4I), enabling the thyroid gland to balance T3/T4 levels in the body
- Guggulu and Kachnar, Ayurvedic herbs, help increase absorption of Iodine in the body, for production of T3 and T4. Today’s stress and lifestyle changes these days have reduced the body’s ability to absorb available nutrition.
- 15 other ingredients that help manage symptoms of thyroid including improved metabolism, weight loss and energy. Natural. No side effects.