Hypothyroidism is the most common type of thyroid disorder. It means your thyroid gland is not active enough. This tiny gland is found in the front of your neck. Its job is to make thyroid hormone. If the gland is underactive, it may not make enough thyroid hormone.
Thyroid hormones control how your body uses energy. They affect almost every organ in your body. When your thyroid doesn’t make enough of these hormones, parts of your body slow down.
The most common cause of
hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disorder. This means your immune system starts to attack
itself. It makes antibodies against the thyroid gland. The normal thyroid cells are
overrun by white blood cells and scar tissue. Another cause may be treatment for an
overactive thyroid gland. That may include radioactive iodine therapy or surgery.
Hypothyroidism may also develop shortly after pregnancy.
A condition called secondary hypothyroidism can also sometimes happen. It’s when your pituitary gland stops working. The pituitary gland then no longer tells the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones.
Newborns are tested at birth for
hypothyroidism. This condition is called congenital hypothyroidism. It must be treated
right away. It can affect a baby’s brain and nervous system.
You may be more likely to have hypothyroidism if you:
Symptoms are different for each person. They are usually hard to notice and start slowly. They may be mistaken for symptoms of depression. Here are the most common symptoms and signs:
These symptoms may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your past health. You will
also need a physical exam. Blood tests can also help diagnose hypothyroidism. They can
measure the amount of thyroid hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormones in your
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It
will also depend on how severe the condition is.
The goal of treatment is to return your level of thyroid hormone back
to normal. You may need to take medicine that gives you a dose of thyroid hormones. This
dose may need to be changed over time. You will likely need to take this medicine for
the rest of your life. You will need follow-up blood tests to make sure you are taking
the correct dose of thyroid hormone replacement.
If your hypothyroidism is not treated, these complications may happen:
Tell your healthcare provider if your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms. If you are a woman of childbearing age and want to become pregnant, talk with your healthcare provider first.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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