The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck. In addition to secreting hormones that are vital to numerous body functions, it ensures the proper functioning of many organs. The thyroid may become "sluggish", meaning that it is not releasing a sufficient amount of these hormones for the system to maintain a normal metabolism. This condition is known as hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism mainly affects middle-aged to older women but can also strike men and young men. In infants and children, hypothyroidism can have serious consequences since it directly affects development and can hinder growth. This age group however, represents a very small proportion of hypothyroid sufferers.
Inflammation of the thyroid gland may be the cause of hypothyroidism. Other causes behind this condition include treatment for hyperthyroidism (opposite condition), an underactive pituitary gland (part of the brain responsible for sending signals to the thyroid) or a genetic predisposition.
Below is a list of symptoms that people with hypothyroidism may experience. They may endure several or none of these symptoms, depending on the severity of the condition.
- decreased libido
- bradycardia (slow heartbeat)
- dry brittle hair
- muscle cramps
- mental impairment
- muscle weakness
- intolerance to cold
- weight gain
- irregular and heavy menstruations
- pale, dry and rough skin
- loss of appetite
- hoarse voice
Hypothyroidism is often diagnosed through routine blood tests before symptoms become severe. The physician conducts an examination and, in light of the symptoms described, requests blood tests including thyroid hormone levels. An inadequate amount of thyroid hormone is sign, more often than not, of hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is a condition that cannot be cured. It can, however, be treated by taking thyroid hormones. These tablets must be taken at the same time every day. The medication usually corrects the symptoms associated with hypothyroidism. A blood test taken a few weeks into therapy will help determine whether the appropriate dose is being prescribed. Afterwards, one or two blood tests a year are generally enough to make sure that everything is under control.
For more information or for support :
Thyroid Foundation of Canada