What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland is underactive. In people with this condition, their thyroid does not produce enough hormones. The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland that is located in the front of the neck. It is an endocrine gland that makes and secretes thyroid hormones into the blood. Thyroid hormones are used to help the body stay warm, use energy, and help the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs function. One of the main functions of thyroid hormone is to help control the body’s metabolism, so when people have low thyroid hormones they may have symptoms associated with a slow metabolism
When the thyroid gland is underactive and doesn’t make enough hormones, the normal balance of chemical reactions in the body is altered. There are multiple different causes for hypothyroidism and the condition is extremely common, especially in women. In the early stages of the disease, people may be asymptomatic, but if it remains untreated symptoms and other complications may arise. 
Treatment for hypothyroidism is usually simple and effective at managing the condition. 
Risk factors
  • Gender: Hypothyroidism is more common in women 
  • Age: Hypothyroidism is more common in adults over the age of 60
  • Having other thyroid problems
  • Family history of thyroid disease
  • History of thyroid surgery 
  • Having been treated with radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications
  • Radiation therapy to neck or upper chest 
  • Having been pregnant or delivered a baby within the last 6 months
  • Having an iodine deficiency: The body needs iodine to make thyroid hormone 
  • Having Turner syndrome
Diagnosis of hypothyroidism will most likely involve a complete medical history and physical exam. Your physician will also likely look at your family history. 
Some tests that may be done to diagnose hypothyroidism include:
  • Blood tests to look at the level of the thyroid hormone, thyroxine (T4), may be done. Blood tests to look at one’s levels of TSH will likely be done first. Low thyroxine and high TSH typically indicate hypothyroidism. TSH is produced by the pituitary gland in order to stimulate the production of thyroid hormone. In people with hypothyroidism, the pituitary gland overproduces TSH in an attempt to try and make more thyroid hormone. A TSH test is likely done before a thyroid hormone test because TSH tests are considered the best diagnostic tests for hypothyroidism. 
The main treatment for hypothyroidism is to have the person take an oral synthetic thyroid hormone medication. People will typically take this medication for the rest of their lives. They will likely need periodic check-ups to check the effectiveness of the medication and manage dosages. 
  • About 10 million Americans suffer from hypothyroidism
  • About 10% of women suffer from some degree of thyroid hormone deficiency 
  • Hypothyroidism is especially common in women over the age of 60
about hypothyroidism

  • "Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 04 Aug. 2017. Web. 16 Oct. 2017.
  • "Hypothyroidism." Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library. Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2017.
  • “Hypothyroidism (Underactive).” American Thyroid Association, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2017.
  • “Hypothyroidism: Overview, Causes, and Symptoms.” Vertical Health LLC. Endocrineweb, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2017. 
  • “Hypothyroidism.” National Institutes of Health U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2017. 

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