What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid is a disease in which thyroid glands are not producing enough triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) hormones to fulfill the needs of the body. The body becomes unable to run the metabolism and normal functions at a speed that is required for the smooth running of processes. If the thyroid cannot produce enough T3 and T4 despite having instructions from the pituitary gland who gives instruction by releasing TSH, then it could lead to primary hypothyroidism. If the TSH levels are too low to trigger the hormone production, then it will lead to secondary hypothyroidism.
The thyroid is a small gland located at the front part of the neck having the shape of a butterfly, controls the metabolism which is the distribution of energy coming from food and its usage by each cell of the body. If your thyroid production is not enough, it will make the metabolism run at low rates, and in turn, body temperature will be lowered along with slowed heartbeat, menstrual irregularities, and the decrease in the rate of calorie burning.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism
It may be difficult to diagnose hypothyroidism initially because its symptoms are confused with other conditions, as you age its signs become dominant and easy to determine. This condition is more common in women than in men, especially women of age around 60. Some common symptoms are:
- Weight gain
- Slow heartbeat
- Dry and thin hairs
- Dry skin
- Swelling of neck
- Having an enhanced feeling of cold
- Disturbance in the menstrual cycle
Hypothyroidism also exists in babies, almost 1 in 3000 babies have this condition by birth, it’s called congenital hypothyroidism. It occurs because thyroid glands fail to develop or work properly, and it goes lifelong. Symptoms in babies with hypothyroidism are:
- Stomach bloating
- Poor feeding
- Puffy face
- Poor growth rate
- Permanent jaundice
- Cold feet and hands
- Sleeping every time
- Hoarse cry
Diagnosis of hypothyroidism
If you feel any sign of hypothyroidism, weight gain, and fatigue, then must visit a doctor to determine whether your thyroid is working properly or not. Your physician would evaluate by physical examination and by blood tests. He will ask you questions about symptoms and family history, will physically check the swelling at your neck, heart rate along with knee and ankle reflexes whether they are slowed down or working properly.
Blood tests are a more reliable source to determine the underactive thyroids. Your TSH level, thyroxine level tests along with some other tests that could be cholesterol tests, will be performed to determine the condition. After getting reports of all tests, your doctor will be able to diagnose the disease. Now it’s easy to diagnose the disease due to the TSH test which plays a crucial role in determining underactive thyroids. TSH tests also help to determine subclinical hypothyroidism which usually has no obvious symptoms. In this condition, you may have normal thyroxine and triiodothyronine levels but your TSH level would be high.
Some factors that may affect the blood tests are blood-thinning medication heparin, stand-alone supplement biotin, so it is necessary to tell the doctors about these medications if you are using any.
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Synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine is used as a standard treatment on a daily basis. It helps to restore or maintain the thyroid level, soothing the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
You may start to feel the difference as soon as you start the treatment. This medication will not only decrease the cholesterol level which was previously increased by the disease but also reverses the weight gain. Levothyroxine is a lifelong treatment, but its dosage can vary depending on TSH level, so a regular checkup is necessary.
How to determine the right dosage
Determination of the right dosage usually takes time, the doctor checks the TSH levels after every six to eight weeks and blood level is checked after six months to determine the appropriate dosage of levothyroxine. It’s crucial to determine the right dosage because excessive amount may cause side effects like:
- Increased appetite
- Irregular heartbeat
Your doctor will recommend the dosage according to underlying conditions like if you have coronary artery disease or high levels of hypothyroidism then the doctor will start the medication at a small dosage and then the dosage is increased gradually. If levothyroxine is used in the right dosage, then it will not cause any side effects despite being inexpensive. If you have to change the brand, then visit the doctor to ensure the right dosage that may change due to a change of brand. To reverse the symptoms of hypothyroidism, continuity in taking medication is necessary.
Adequate absorption of levothyroxine
The ability of absorption of levothyroxine may be affected due to specific medications, some foods, or supplements. So, at the time of deciding medication for you, you must tell the doctor if you are taking excessive amounts of soy products, a diet rich in fiber, or medications like calcium supplements, iron supplements, or aluminum hydroxide which is present in antacids.
It will be more beneficial if you take levothyroxine on an empty stomach and at the same time every day. After having dosage in the morning, wait an hour before you take any meal or some other medication. Take two dosages the next day if you miss a dose.
In the case of subclinical hypothyroidism, thyroid hormone therapy cannot benefit you for a mild increase in TSH, rather it can prove harmful for you. But if your TSH level is high then thyroid hormone therapy would be efficient to improve your heartbeat, cholesterol level, and energy level.
Levothyroxine is the best of all being medications and is inexpensive too. Some other medications are also used to treat underactive thyroid including Cytomel, Thyroid desiccated, Synthroid, Levoxyl, Liothyronine, Armour thyroid, Tirosint, Euthyrox, Levo-T, Westhroid, WP Thyroid, Novothyrox, Thyquidity, Unithroid, Tirosint-Sol, NP Thyroid, Triostat, and Nature-throid.
Synthetic thyroid hormones are the best options for the treatment of hypothyroidism, above all are synthetic versions of T3, T4, and levothyroxine.
Your physician may recommend iodine supplements if the disease is caused by iodine deficiency. You can take magnesium and selenium supplements to improve your condition but ask your doctor before taking any supplements.
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Hypothyroidism, Hyperthyroidism and Thyroid Tests
- What is hypothyroidism?
- How common is hypothyroidism?
- Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism
- What causes hypothyroidism
- Medications are available to treat Hypothyroidism
- Special Dietary Recommendations for people with Hypothyroidism
- The connection between hypothyroidism and weight loss
- 5 Tips for losing weight while Having hypothyroidism
- Hypothyroidism and its impact on fertility and pregnancy
- What’s Hyperthyroidism
- Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
- Treatment for Hyperthyroidism
- How to diagnose Hyperthyroidism?
- How to treat Hyperthyroidism
- Difference between Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism