What is hypothyroidism?

Michael Rosenberg
Michael Rosenberg

Specializes in translating complex information into readable, engaging content. Michael@top10us.com

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your body is unable to produce enough crucial thyroid hormones. The thyroid is a small gland, having the shape of a butterfly, and is located at the front of the neck. Thyroid glands secrete hormones that help the body to regulate and use energy. The thyroid has a crucial role in the distribution of energy to every organ of the body. Besides energy provision, the thyroid controls the heartbeat and working of the digestive system. The thyroid has a critical place in the body and if the amount of thyroid hormones gets disturbed, it will affect all of the natural functions of the body. 

Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid has more disturbing effects on women than men. It can appear at any age but after the age of 60, its effects are more obvious. If you find any symptoms, then you must go ahead with a blood test to diagnose hypothyroidism. 

If you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, then go for treatment which is quite simple and safe. Many treatments involve feeding the artificial hormones to maintain the level of your hormones, these artificial hormones help your body to return to its normal functions.

Is hypothyroidism a common condition?

Yes, it is a fairly common condition and 4.6 percent of Americans of age 12 years and above are suffering from this, and overall, almost 10 million American people are living with this condition. Women are more prone to this disease, and every 1 in 8 women has hypothyroidism. 

Symptoms of hypothyroidism

The symptoms of this disease vary from person to person. They also vary with the severity of the disease and sometimes it is difficult to identify the symptoms altogether. 

Common and early symptoms of hypothyroidism are obesity and fatigue, and other symptoms may appear as you age like:

  • Depression
  • Low heart rate
  • Sensitive and puffy face
  • Dry skin
  • Impaired memory
  • Constipation
  • Hair thinning and dryness
  • Fertility issues
  • Tenderness and stiffness in muscles
  • Joint pain and stiffening

Normally, symptoms of disease grow very slowly after the appearance of the first sign, as the number of thyroid hormones continues decreasing with age, it becomes easier to identify the symptoms. 

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Causes of hypothyroidism

Some common causes of underactive hormones are given below.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

It is an autoimmune condition that is the most common reason for hypothyroidism in the US.

Our immune system protects our body’s cells against bacteria and viruses, when an unknown bacteria or virus enters our body, our immune system responds to it by releasing fighter cells to demolish the foreign cells. Sometimes our body gets confused between normal cells and bacteria, it may send invading cells to normal and healthy cells, it’s called an autoimmune system. If it is not treated at the right time, then many healthy tissues could become victims of the autoimmune system, causing serious medical issues including hypothyroidism. 

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis attacks the thyroid glands and can cause chronic inflammation of thyroid glands which can reduce the normal functioning of the thyroid. Middle-aged women are more prone to it, children and men can be its victim, and this condition is more obvious in people which have a family history of this disease. 

Treatment for hyperthyroidism

You are suffering from hyperthyroidism if your thyroid gland is producing an excessive amount of thyroid hormone. Treatment for hyperthyroidism includes reduction and normalization of hormone production, but it may reduce the level of thyroid hormone permanently (hypothyroidism) especially when treatment is done with radioactive iodine. 

Surgical removal of the thyroid

You will develop hypothyroidism if your thyroid gland is removed entirely due to severe thyroid problems, thyroid medication becomes compulsory for a lifetime to maintain the level.

If a portion of the gland is removed, then the thyroid cannot produce enough hormones to maintain the level, you can have thyroid medication after determining the right quantity from blood tests. 

Radiation therapy

If you had been diagnosed with lymphoma or leukemia, cancer of the head or neck, then your radiation therapy must have been done. Radiation used in therapy may slow the production of thyroid hormone that will lead to hypothyroidism. 


Some medications that are used to treat cancer, psychological problems, or heart disease may lower the production of thyroid hormone leading to hypothyroidism. These medications include:

  • Interleukin-2 (IL-2)
  • Lithium
  • Amiodarone
  • Mitotane

Risk factors of hypothyroidism

Following factors can increase the risk of hypothyroidism:

  • Family history of hypothyroidism
  • Age around 60 years
  • Being a female
  • Having an autoimmune condition

Diagnosis of hypothyroidism

Medical evaluation and blood tests are used as primary tools to determine hypothyroidism.

Medical evaluation

Your doctor does your medical evaluation by physical examination and by knowing your medical history. They check the following conditions for the physical exam.

  • Neck swelling
  • Dry skin
  • Low heart rate
  • Slow reflexes

He will ask you for further symptoms that you are experiencing like depression, constipation, fatigue, and a constant feeling of cold, tell your doctor of family history of thyroid if you have. 

Blood tests

Blood tests are a reliable way to diagnose hypothyroidism.

A thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test is done to measure the quantity of TSH which is produced by pituitary glands.

  • If thyroid hormone production is not enough then the pituitary gland will uplift the TSH to enhance the production of thyroid hormone.
  • You will have a high TSH level if you have hypothyroidism because your body is stimulating thyroid hormone activity.
  • You will have low TSH if you have hyperthyroidism because your body is trying to inhibit the excessive production of thyroid hormone.  

Another important test to identify hypothyroidism is thyroxine (T4) level test, it is the hormone that is the direct production of the thyroid. Both TSH and T4 are reliable sources to determine the function of the thyroid. 

You are a victim of hypothyroidism if you have a low T4 level with an elevated level of TSH. These tests tell the abnormality of thyroid function, further tests should be done to know the proper situation of the disease so that your doctor could be able to start a proper medication.

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Hypothyroidism, Hyperthyroidism and Thyroid Tests


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