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5 Signs of an Underactive Thyroid Gland

Underactive thyroid symptoms manifest differently in men and women. A thyroid gland malfunction can reduce thyroid hormone secretion. This thyroid dip can slow down the pace of body metabolism and the symptoms can progress from mild to severe.

The tricky part is distinguishing hypothyroidism symptoms from generalized symptoms associated with common ailments. This is the reason why most hyperthyroidism patients remain undiagnosed for a long time, allowing greater damage.

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To understand the signs and symptoms of underactive thyroid, it is a good idea to learn about the range of thyroid functions without which your body will fail to function normally.

Low thyroid levels will result in a host of symptoms in men, women, and children. If left untreated, this thyroid disorder may result in life-threatening conditions.

Underactive thyroid weight gain is a common symptom in both sexes. Hypothyroidism diet recommended by doctor helps in controlling it.

Along with hypothyroidism exercise, both control and healing can be facilitated. But the higher prevalence of hypothyroidism in women due to hormonal and genetic predisposition, gives rise to more complex symptoms as compared to men.

Powerhouse Thyroid- Functions and Effects

Before dealing with underactive thyroid symptoms, have a glance at the numerous roles played by your thyroid gland. This small butterfly-shaped gland in your neck serves as the powerhouse of the body, just like mitochondria which powers all the function in a cell.

Being an important organ in the endocrine system, it produces thyroid hormones by utilizing iodine and is regulated by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus.

HormonesRoles
Thyroxine (T4)The major hormone, the storage form of T3 in blood
Triiodothyronine (T3)Maintains and regulates body metabolism
CalcitoninRegulates Calcium and Phosphate levels in the blood, opposes the action of parathyroid hormone

An underactive thyroid means the low production of thyroid hormones by your thyroid. There are around 10 million cases of hypothyroidism in India.

A large number of cases go undetected as not many people have a regular underactive thyroid test. Underactive thyroid symptoms progress slowly and mimic other health conditions like diabetes, arthritis and heart diseases.

Underactive thyroid weight gain is most often ignored in women as it is confused with post maternity or postmenopausal weight gain.

Here is the list of functions that are performed by thyroid hormones in your body.

SystemFunction
Digestive systemIncreases basal metabolic rate, fatty acid oxidation, better absorption of nutrients by gut, proper bile secretion.
Circulatory SystemIncreases cardiac muscle strength, maintains normal heartbeat, improves blood circulation, better oxygenation due to higher respiration rate.
Reproductive SystemMaintains normal sexual growth and functioning, increases libido and regularizes menstrual cycle, proper fetal brain development.
Nervous SystemStrengthens the nervous system for proper brain development and functioning, maintains sleep pattern and thought process.

Any change in thyroid levels can disrupt all functions and cause thyroid disorders. Since thyroid maintains so many metabolic processes, the range of thyroid disorder symptoms is also wide.

5 Common Underactive Thyroid Symptoms

Hyperthyroidism is the most common form of thyroid disorder in both genders. However, women are more likely to suffer from underactive thyroid disease.

If you an older woman or you have a family history of autoimmune disorder, the chances of developing hypothyroidism are even greater. Hypothyroidism causes are:

  • Autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
  • Radioactive iodine treatment.
  • Part or full thyroid removal by surgery.
  • Radiation exposure.
  • Lithium intake.
  • Pituitary malfunction.
  • Iodine deficiency

Underactive thyroid symptoms occur differently for men and women. Here is a list of common symptoms seen in both sexes.

Fatigue:

Feeling tired is one of the foremost symptoms of an underactive thyroid function. Because of slower metabolism, enough energy is not generated. Hence you may feel drained out and tired all the time. It may also make you feel unrested despite of more sleep.

Unexplained Weight Gain:

Underactive thyroid weight gain happens due to lower metabolism and low mobility due to fatigue. Your body starts storing fats in response to slowed down metabolic rate.  It can happen irrespective of how less you eat. Constipation is also a result of sluggish digestion.

Sensitivity to Cold:

Lowered thyroid levels can slow down blood circulation and bring down body temperature. These factors may cause you to experience chills and shivering even at room temperatures.

Joint Pain and Weakness of Muscles:

With the metabolism in hibernation, the body starts utilizing muscle tissues for energy generation. Hence you may feel muscle aches, muscle cramps and pain in joints for a long duration, without any apparent reason.

Mental Confusion and Depression:

Two neglected underactive thyroid symptoms are foggy thinking and depression. Hypothyroid patients may have trouble thinking or remembering clearly. You may also suffer from depression due to diminished body functions.

Underactive thyroid symptoms in men are:

  • Low sex drive due to low testosterone levels.
  • Erectile dysfunction.
  • Visible reduction in muscle mass.

Women experience underactive thyroid symptoms with a greater propensity. The main reason is considered to be estrogen dominance. Additional underactive thyroid symptoms in women are:

  • Irregular menstrual cycle with a heavier flow is a common hypothyroidism symptom.
  • Difficulty in conceiving due to anovulation.
  • Early menopause (before the age of 40).
  • Postpartum depression and irritability can be due to hypothyroidism.
  • Pregnancy hypothyroidism can result in miscarriage or congenital hypothyroidism in the fetus(5).

Hypothyroidism Diagnosis and Treatment

Hypothyroidism diagnosis is difficult since the symptoms are similar to those produced by other common disorders. Diagnosis is done based on the physical symptoms and confirmed by blood screening.

Doctors use a variety of exams to confirm if you have hypothyroidism.

  • Physical examination of your neck.
  • Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Test.
  • T4 level Test.
  • Anti-Thyroid Microsomal Antibody Test.
  • Thyroid Ultrasound and Magnetic Image Resonance of the pituitary

Hypothyroidism treatment takes into account the range and type of complications that the condition presents.

  • Oral T4 thyroid hormone replenishment by Levothyroxine.
  • Oral T3 Thyroid hormone replenishment by Liothyronine.
  • Desiccated thyroid extracts.

Modification of lifestyle with proper diet and exercise assist medications for an efficient treatment. Hypothyroidism diet includes taking fruits, vegetables, selenium-rich nuts, tyrosine-rich dairy, meat and pulses.

Proper caution must be taken to avoid foods which contain thyroid retarding compounds. Diet and hypothyroidism exercise exert a combined effort on treatment and subsequent hypothyroidism weight loss.

Quick Bytes

What is Goiter?

Enlargement of the thyroid gland is known as goiter. It can happen due to iodine deficiency, Grave’s disease, and hypothyroidism.

How does hypothyroidism affect infants?

It may cause puffy appearance, protruding tongue, incomplete brain maturation, jaundice and other developmental issues in infants.

What is thyroiditis?

Chronic inflammation of thyroid glands which leads to under activity of the gland is called thyroiditis.

Can iodine supplements help in hypothyroidism treatment?

If your hypothyroidism is due to Iodine deficiency, then taking iodine supplements will help you. But excessive intake can suppress thyroid functions.

What is the normal thyroid level for an adult?

It is 0.4 mU/L – 4 mU/L, for a healthy adult.

 

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