The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland, which means it produces and secretes the thyroid hormones directly into the blood. The thyroid hormone is used to regulate metabolism, growth, and mood. Low thyroxine levels result in low body metabolism. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid glands fail to produce enough thyroxine. About five percent of the population aged between 10 to 12 years in our country suffer from hypothyroidism. It is also sometimes referred to as underactive thyroid.
Read on as the article briefly describes the causes, symptoms, diagnosis of hypothyroidism and its treatments.
- Hashimoto’s disease– Hashimoto’s disease causes the body’s immune system to attack the body’s own cells and organs, in this case, thyroid gland, which can also lead to hypothyroidism.
- Thyroiditis– It is the inflammation of thyroid gland which causes thyroid hormones to leak directly into the bloodstream leading to hyperthyroidism which might result in hypothyroidism. Thyroiditis can be caused due to viral or bacterial infection, an autoimmune condition, or following pregnancy.
- Congenital hypothyroidism– In the case of congenital hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland does not function properly from birth leading to physical and mental growth problems. However, early treatments can prevent these problems.
- Surgery– Surgeries for various conditions such as goiters, thyroid cancer, and thyroid nodules can also lead to hypothyroidism.
- Pituitary gland abnormalities– Abnormally functioning pituitary gland can also result in an imbalance in the secretion of hormones in the body.
- Iodine imbalance– Too much or too little iodine can lead to hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
The thyroid gland creates two types of thyroid hormones, (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Low levels of these hormones can result in symptoms such as weight gain, cold intolerance, constipation, dry skin, brittle and thin fingernails, decreased sweating, and high cholesterol.
Hypothyroidism might develop slowly as most of the symptoms are vague and general. The person might not notice the same for a long time until the person starts experiencing loss of libido; puffy face, feet, and hands; anemia; poor growth; delayed development of teeth; and delayed puberty (in case of teenagers).
The doctors will initially carry out a physical examination to examine the symptoms and refer the medical history of the patient. A thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test is the most common blood test which helps in detecting the levels of T3 and T4 in the blood, thereby establishing the health and activity of the thyroid gland.
Treating hypothyroidism focuses on supplementing the thyroid hormone which can be done using the following two ways:
- Iodine and nutrition– Being an essential mineral for thyroid function, iodine intake is important for most people. Autoimmune thyroid diseases can eventually trigger or worsen the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Doctors might recommend dietary changes, this especially might include starting a high fiber diet and eating plenty of cruciferous vegetables.
- Synthetic thyroxine– Doctors might also prescribe synthetic thyroxine and prescribe medications to balance the T4 hormones.
- Natural foods– Some natural foods such as soy, coffee, kelp, seaweed, kale, broccoli, and spinach also help in balancing the thyroid levels in the body.