Hypothyroidism

Tiroide

Although hypothyroidism, or low thyroid, can affect both sexes, men are up to 10 times less likely to suffer from it. This disease has no cure but it can be treated, and early detection is key. Thus, it is very important to keep a look out for symptoms.

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is low thyroid function, meaning the thyroid gland produces insufficient amounts of triiodothyronine and thyroxine hormones.

These hormones are vital macromolecules that are involved in all metabolic and functional processes of tissues. Amongst other duties, they stimulate the manufacture of proteins and increase oxygen in cells.

Causes

  • Chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s disease

An autoimmune disease whereby the body’s own immune system attacks the thyroid and is progressively destroyed.

  • Postpartum thyroiditis

This is where a thyroid gland becomes inflamed within the first year after child birth. It usually lasts several weeks or months. This type of thyroiditis is difficult to diagnose, but its early symptoms are similar to those of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), and gradually evolve to those of an underactive thyroid.

Diagnosis

A blood test is conducted to identify the levels of thyroid stimulating hormones (TSH) produced by the thyroid. In addition, it is important to check cholesterol levels, blood count, liver enzymes, sodium and prolactin hormone.

Symptoms

  • Muscle aches and joint pain.
  • Low blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Drowsiness and tiredness.
  • Weight gain.
  • Fertility problems and irregular menstruation.
  • Low sex drive.
  • Constipation.
  • Cold and dry skin.
  • Thinning hair.
  • Swelling in hands, feet, and puffy face.

Risk Factors

  • Over the age of 50.
  • Relatives with goiter or other endocrine problems.
  • Cancer radiation treatment near the neck.
  • Lithium or amiodarone treatments.
  • Autoimmune diseases related to thyroid cells.
  • A diet either too rich or too poor in iodine.
  • Removal of part or all of the thyroid gland.

Treatment

Depending on the type of hypothyroidism and its stage, as well as other factors such as age, the treatment that is usually administered is levothyroxine. This hormone is identical to the one produced by the thyroid gland, and helps normalise TSH levels.

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