What is hypothyroidism?
What causes hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism can be caused by various factors such as –
- Iodine deficiency
- Surgery to remove the thyroid gland
- Radioactive iodine treatment
- Radiation therapy involving your thyroid, neck or chest
- Congenital hypothyroidism (partial or complete absence of the thyroid gland at birth)
- Viral infections (sometimes viral infections cause inflammation of the thyroid gland, making it underactive)
- Medicines such as lithium, thalidomide, rifampin, phenytoin, carbamazepine, phenobarbital interferon-alpha, interleukin-2, amiodarone etc.
- An underactive pituitary gland
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include –
- Weight gain
- Enlarged thyroid
- Dry skin
- Dry hair and hair loss
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Joint pain and muscle cramps
- Decreased heart rate
- Menstrual problems
- Fertility problems
- Decreased libido
- Irritability and depression
Hypothyroidism in infants can present with the following symptoms –
- Dull puffy face
- A big tongue that protrudes or sticks out
- Bouts of poor feeding and choking
- Poor muscle tone resulting in floppiness
- Stunted growth
- Hoarse crying
Hypothyroidism in children results in –
- Delayed or stunted growth
- Delayed onset of puberty
- Thick lips
- Delayed eruption of teeth and malalignment of teeth
What is subclinical hypothyroidism?
What is myxedema?
What is cretinism?
What is Hashimoto's disease?
What are the complications of hypothyroidism?
Some complications include –
- Goitre (enlarged thyroid gland – it can lead to hoarseness of voice, trouble in breathing and swallowing)
- Myxedema coma (features include decreased rate of breathing, decreased body temperature, seizures and shock; this requires emergency medical care)
- Heart disease
- Mental health problems
- Stunted growth and mental deficiency in babies and young children
How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?
If you report to your doctor with symptoms of hypothyroidism, you may be advised to take certain blood tests. These include
- Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)
- T3 and T4 tests
- Anti-thyroid antibody testing
Additionally, you may be advised to undergo radioactive iodine uptake, ultrasound, CT, MRI or a biopsy if your doctor suspects a greater problem.
How is hypothyroidism treated?
Is my hypothyroidism curable?
Do I have to take thyroid hormone supplements for the rest of my life?
I missed a dose of my thyroid medicine. What should I do now?
What if I take an extra dose of my thyroid medication by mistake?
If you take an extra dose of your thyroid medication by mistake, do not panic. Accidental consumption of one additional dose of thyroid medicine is unlikely to harm you. You may experience heart pounding, feeling very hot, sweating, increased hunger, nervousness, anxiety and in some cases, even diarrhoea and sleeplessness. You may start experiencing these symptoms several days after the accident which may resolve gradually over the next couple of days. Consult your doctor and report the incident if your symptoms are persistent.
To avoid making a mistake, keep a checklist or a pillbox that contains tablets dispensed for each day separately.
Are there any side effects to thyroid hormone medicines?
There are some side effects to thyroid hormone medicines. These include –
- Rapid heartbeat (palpitations)
- Excessive hunger, in spite of eating normally
- Nervousness and anxiety
- Intolerance to heat
- Abnormalities in the
- menstrual cycle
- Changes in appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Joint pain
If your symptoms are severe, contact your doctor.
How is hypothyroidism and its treatment going to impact my pregnancy?
Untreated hypothyroidism can interfere with the development of the embryo and lead to a miscarriage. It can also lead to premature delivery, low birth weight and decreased mental capacity of the baby.
Levothyroxine, the medicine used for treating hypothyroidism, is safe to take during pregnancy. However, talk to your doctor and confirm if you need to make any adjustments to your dosage during pregnancy.
I have hypothyroidism. What lifestyle modifications should I adopt now?
Some measures include –
- Sleeping for at least 8 hours every day
- Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight
- Consuming a healthy balanced diet: Add foods with iodine to your diet (seafood, iodized salt, dairy, meat, eggs etc.)
- Getting treated for your hypothyroidism and ensuring regular follow-ups with your doctor