What are the Symptoms and Causes of Hypothyroidism

Friday, 18 November 2011

Hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs when your thyroid gland produces less thyroid hormones (thyroxine) than your body needs.

Thyroid hormones are crucial for the following functions:-
  • for our body's metabolism
  • affects our breathing, brain development, heartbeat, nervous system, body temperature, muscle strength, skin dryness, menstrual cycles and weight.
Hypothyroidism happens more in women than men.
Older people are more likely to get it.
Most people do not know they have hypothyroidism because the symptoms are non-specific and easily confused with other diseases.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
  • fatigue
  • weight gain
  • depression
  • intolerance to cold
  • feeling sleepy all the time
  • hair getting dry and course
  • skin getting dry
  • constipation
  • muscle cramps
  • difficulty in concentrating
  • swelling of the legs
  • increased cholesterol levels
  • puffiness around the eyes
  • slow down in heart rate or body temperature.

Causes of Hypothyroidism

1) Hashimoto's thyroiditis. It is an inherited autoimmune condition. This means that your body's own defence cells attack your thyroid gland cells. Very common in Western countries.

2) Thyroiditis following hyperthyroidism. Affects up to 8% of women after pregnancy. When your thyroid gland becomes inflamed, thyroid hormones leak out of your inflamed thyroid gland and cause hyperthyroidism. After the leakage stops, you go into a hypothyroid phase because the inflamed cells reduce production of the thyroid hormones. This phase usually lasts for 6 months or so before returning to normal.

3) Destruction of thyroid cells.
When your thyroid gland is removed or destroyed because of:
  • cancer
  • Grave's Disease (which causes hyperthyroidism)
  • a goitre (abnormal swelling of the thyroid gland that causes a lump to form in the throat),
you no longer have that many thyroid cells left to produce thyroid hormones. You may have to go on thyroxine pills the rest of your life.

4) Pituitary or hypothalamic disease. The thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is produced by the pituitary gland and governed by the hypothalamus. You will get hypothyroidism if anything were to affect the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, such as:
  • medications for hyperthyroidism may cause the reverse - hypothyroidism
  • iodine deficiency eg lack of seafood.

(Source: I Feel Slowww... by Dr Y.L.M., Star2 Health 16 November 2011)

For info on the "opposite" problem, read this article What is Hyperthyroidism - Symptoms and Causes.



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