What is Hypothyroidism?

Posted on December 2, 2021 ·

BY Shruti

Medically Reviewed

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Hypothyroidism often goes undiagnosed for years - especially since most of the symptoms are easily confused with other conditions. But what is hypothyroidism and what symptoms should you look out for?
woman with hypothyroidism

It’s often said that if you wait for the symptoms to develop — you’ve waited for too long. So it’s always better to get yourself tested early. However, there are certain conditions such as hypothyroidism that are difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are easily confused with many other conditions. Let’s take an example. 

You’ve probably gained a few kilos in the past few months. What would be your initial reaction? Get back to working out? Cut down on junk and sugary foods? Or let’s say you’ve been experiencing low energy and fatigue and blamed it on your stressful work life. Well, that’s a fair thought. But it’s unlikely for you to guess if you’ve got an underlying thyroid problem especially when you don’t exhibit any obvious symptoms of it.

You must wonder what’s the deal with thyroid. For a gland that is roughly two inches in size has the capacity to influence practically every organ in your body. This butterfly-shaped gland secretes a hormone known as thyroxine. This hormone controls your heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure and metabolism. So, what happens when such a vital hormone is not produced in enough quantities due to an underactive thyroid? It leads to a condition known as “hypothyroidism”

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The thyroid is a small gland situated in the front of your neck that produces a hormone called thyroxine which is secreted into the blood and carried to various parts of the body. 

The thyroid hormone controls almost every major body process. When your thyroid is functioning normally, it’s constantly secreting hormones, keeping your metabolism functioning and all of your body’s systems in check.

But when the thyroid does not make enough hormones to meet your body’s requirements, it results in a condition called hypothyroidism. And without enough thyroid hormones, many of your body processes slow down.

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Hypothyroidism is one of the most common thyroid disorders, and can affect anyone regardless of age, gender and ethnicities. However, there are certain factors that can put you at a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism.

  • Women are at a higher risk than men in developing hypothyroidism. The risk particularly increases during pregnancy, postpartum and around menopause
  • Although you can develop hypothyroidism at any age, the risk increases with age, especially if you’re above the age of 60
  • Have a family history of thyroid problems
  • Have underlying autoimmune conditions such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease or pernicious anaemia
  • Have had a previous thyroid surgery, received radioactive iodine treatment or a radiation therapy to your thyroid, chest or neck.
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Hypothyroidism can show a variety of symptoms and differ among people. Symptoms of hypothyroidism can develop slowly over the years or for some people can develop quickly within a few months. Since most of the symptoms are not pretty obvious or overlap with other conditions, it is only until you get certain blood tests done that your doctor can give you a formal diagnosis. However some common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism are:

  • Fatigue, need for more sleep, trouble waking up in the morning
  • trouble tolerating cold
  • joint and muscle pain
  • dry skin or dry, thinning hair
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • heavy or irregular menstrual periods or fertility problems
  • slowed heart rate
  • Loss of appetite 
  • New or worsening constipation
  • New or worsening problems with memory

Hypothyroidism cannot be diagnosed on symptoms alone. Your doctor will take several approaches such as taking into account your symptoms, family history, physical examination and blood tests. Hypothyroidism does not have a cure per se but the symptoms can be managed completely with medications that help restore normal thyroid levels. So lately if you’ve been experiencing a change in the way you feel or are exhibiting symptoms that have become severe with time, its a good decision to speak to your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Disclaimer: Content on Veera is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice, or as a substitute for medical advice given by a physician

[author_area image="1163" author_name="Dr Iris Lee"][/author_area]

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