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Underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone or when that hormone can’t get into the cells. There are a number of things that can cause hypothyroidism including:
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease, in which your immune system attacks your thyroid gland, affecting its ability to produce thyroid hormones.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland overproduces thyroid hormones. Anti-thyroid medications, radioactive iodine and thyroid removal is used to treat this condition conventionally. However, radiating or removing the thyroid might lead to permanently lowering the thyroid levels causing hypothyroidism.
Radiation treatment received for cancer can have a side effect on the thyroid gland.
Certain medication such as lithium and the oral contraceptive pill can have an effect on the thyroid hormone levels.
The thyroid gland plays a major role in regulating metabolism, growth and development of the body. One of the functions of the thyroid hormone is to increase the basal metabolic rate which affects your body composition.
Hypothyroidism is eight times more likely to occur in females than in males. The most common symptoms of underactive thyroid in females are:
One of the most common symptoms is feeling tired. Since thyroid hormones control energy levels, lower levels can make people feel exhausted and worn out. If you are feeling sluggish and more tired than usual, it could be a sign of hypothyroidism.
Another common symptom of hypothyroidism is unexplained weight gain. As mentioned earlier, thyroid gland is responsible for increasing your basal metabolic rate. Lower thyroid hormones decreases the basal metabolic rate. This leads to weight gain, even if the calories consumed remains unchanged.
Cold hands and feet
Since hypothyroidism decreases the metabolic rates, this makes circulation and blood flow decrease, and is one reason why hypothyroidism can make you sensitive to cold.
Muscle and joint aches
Hashimoto’s is a type of autoimmune thyroid condition and often has an inflammatory component. Inflammation can contribute to increase joint aches and muscle pain, and is often experienced by people with an underactive thyroid.
Itchy and dry skin
Lower thyroid levels has an impact on rapidly growing cells such as skin. When skin takes longer to regrow and repair, it can lead to dry, flaky and itchy skin.
Swelling, puffiness and redness of skin known as Myxedema is a symptom of severe hypothyroidism, sometimes induced by autoimmune diseases.
Similar to skin cells, hypothyroidism affects the rapidly growing hair follicles resulting in hair loss. If your hair is becoming patchy, coarse or you’re experiencing other unexpected changes, it could be due to hypothyroidism.
The overall decrease in thyroid hormone levels can affect the amount and balance of beneficial brain chemicals and natural mood enhancing hormones that your body produces. Hypothyroidism is commonly misdiagnosed as depression and fixing the thyroid can often help with depression or low mood. You should seek professional help if you are feeling depressed or anxious.
Irregular or heavy periods
Both irregular and heavy menstruation has been linked to hypothyroidism. Thyroid interacts with the other hormones that regulate menstruation. Thus, a fluctuation in thyroid levels disrupts their control.
There are various treatments available for hypothyroidism such as-
The standard treatment involves oral intake of synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine. Starting this medication will sometimes make you feel better soon after. It will usually restore some of your thyroid hormone levels but does not always reverse the symptoms of hypothyroidism unless the root cause is addressed.
For many people medication alone does not fix their symptoms or stop the disease process. If that’s the case, then a thyroid health expert can provide you with a diet, supplementation, and lifestyle support that will help with thyroid healing.