The thyroid is an endocrine gland that is roughly in the shape of a butterfly. It is located right below your larynx (voice box). The thyroid function is to produce hormones that control your metabolism and specific functions of your digestive and circulatory systems.
Thyroid hormones stimulate brain development and muscle control, as well as influencing moods and bone maintenance. Your thyroid needs iodine in your diet for ideal functioning.
Sometimes, the thyroid gland does not supply enough hormones into your bloodstream. In these cases, you will notice hypothyroidism symptoms. Some factors may put you at risk for hypothyroidism, such as a family history of the disorder or certain autoimmune diseases.
When people complain about constant fatigue, their doctors may suspect hypothyroidism. This condition affects 4.2% of all Americans over the age of 12, states the National Institute of Health. This condition appears when thyroids is no longer able to produce enough hormones that the body needs.
No one knows why this thyroid condition predominately affects more women than men. In this article, we will discuss the hypothyroidism symptoms, causes treatment, and prevention methods for hypothyroidism. These are some essential points to consider.
Quickcare or ER?
Red flags that will send you to the ER:
- Severe problems with breathing.
- Abnormally slow pulse (less than 60 beats per minute).
- Body temperature falling to 95 degrees F or less.
- Mental confusion or psychosis.
- Extreme weakness that leads to unconsciousness.
General Information about Hypothyroidism Symptoms
After obtaining your medical history and doing a physical examination, you doctor will ask about your symptoms. This is your story. He/she must know the range of your fatigue, how long it lasts, and how often it occurs. According to dietvsdisease.org, overwhelming fatigue is the main symptom of hypothyroidism. The doctor will ask if you have frequent bouts of dry skin, and if you are suddenly sensitive to the cold. He/she will inquire about your bowel habits—especially if you have unusual periods of constipation.
He/she will check your medical history and will ask about unexplained weight gain, and if you have a history of thyroid problems. If you are a woman, he/she will inquire about your menstrual cycles. The doctor must also know if you experience depression or anxiety.
What Will Your Doctor Ask?
If you had radiation treatments for cancer, you are susceptible to hypothyroidism. Thyroid surgery can be a factor, as well as pregnancy or taking some medications. People over 60 are prone to hypothyroidism symptoms—especially females. Hypothyroidism may result from lithium therapy which treats bipolar disorder.
Those who do not have enough iodine in their diet can develop the disorder over time. Congenital hypothyroidism in newborns is especially dangerous, since it can lead to growth problems and mental disabilities. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an auto-immune disease which leads to a production of antibodies which alter the thyroid gland.
Tell your doctor about any allergies you have, as well as the medication you are taking (including herbal supplements). If you have recently stopped smoking, let the doctor know.
What Will Your Doctor Look for?
As the physician compares your medical history to your present condition, he/she will look for physical signs of exhaustion. These can be dark circles under the eyes, slower movement, and difficulty concentrating.
He/she will look for red patches of dry, itchy skin. The doctor will examine your hair to see if it is dry and brittle, or if you are experiencing hair loss. If your thyroid is not producing enough hormones, your skin, hair, and nails will not retain healthy moisture. Specific to the skin, myxedema is a dry, waxy swelling of seen mostly on the extremities. He/she will look for swelling and tenderness around your thyroid area.
The cardiac examination may reveal a decreased heart rate (bradycardia) and low blood pressure (hypotension). Congestive heart failure may be the initial finding with hypothyroidism.
Because these symptoms overlap with other disorders, the doctor will request a blood test. This way, professionals can find the levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood. Products of TSH levels are key. These include T3 and T4. The levels of thyroxine (T4) are important in making the correct diagnosis.
These blood tests demonstrate how your thyroid is functioning. Your doctor may refer you to an endocrinologist who specializes in thyroid disease and other endocrine glands.
What Is the Treatment for Hypothyroidism Symptoms?
If your thyroid is not producing enough hormones to function, the doctor can prescribe synthetic hormone replacement called levothyroxine. It has several brand names, such as Levo-T, Unithroid, Levoxyl, Tiroxint, and Synthroid. Levothyroxine is taken orally to bring your thyroid hormones back to normal levels.
When you have a hypothyroidism diagnosis, your doctor will probably start you on a low dose of levothyroxine to see how you do. Most people tend to see results in two to three weeks after the initial dose.
You may notice that the lethargy is lifting, and you may lose some weight. The doctor will re-check the TSH levels in your blood in a couple of months. If the levels are not correct, he/she may adjust your dosage of levothyroxine accordingly.
Some patients object to using synthetic hormone replacements, and opt for natural versions. You may discuss natural thyroid hormone replacement with your doctor. These are extracted from the thyroid glands of pigs, and must be prescribed by a doctor. However, the source warns that over-the-counter glandular concentrates are not the same. On top of that, the FDA doesn’t regulate their safety to consumers.
Hypothyroidism Duration/Recovery Time
Currently, there are no permanent cures for hypothyroidism. However, most people with hypothyroidism symptoms stay virtually symptom-free on a life-long regimen of hormone replacement. Recovery time depends on the person and dosage.
However, most patients find relief from their symptoms in as little as two to three weeks. If patients stop taking their levothyroxine as directed by the physician, they can expect to see a gradual return of their hypothyroidism symptoms.
When you suspect that you are experiencing hypothyroidism symptoms, speak to your family doctor as soon as possible. Hypothyroidism is relatively easy to treat with a synthetic hormone replacement. These symptoms may also be signs of another disorder. Therefore, it is imperative to be examined by your physician.
If left untreated, hypothyroidism can affect the cardiovascular system, or can lead to a fatal coma. Elderly females during cold weather exposure are at higher risk. Contact your doctor immediately if these more severe symptoms occur. It is better to be safe than sorry when dealing with hypothyroidism.