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Among a wide variety of chronic illnesses, hypothyroidism is a fairly common disease. It is observed that women are diagnosed with hypothyroidism in larger numbers than men, as well as that a person’s susceptibility to hypothyroidism increases with age.
Essentially, hypothyroidism can be understood as an ailment of the endocrine system of the human body, which affects the thyroid gland of the patient. In patients diagnosed with hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland does not function to its full capability and is unable to produce enough of the hormone known as a thyroid that is required for a number of bodily functions. Some of the important functions of thyroid hormone in the human body are:
- Increase and maintenance of basal metabolic rate of the body
- Aid in protein synthesis
- Synergistic action along with the growth hormone helps in regulating bone growth
- Essential for correct development and differentiation of the cells in the body
In this thyroid disorder, the body of the patient becomes deficient in both T3 and T4 thyroid hormones, leading to a wide range of complications. To understand hypothyroidism, we shall take a look at the following key aspects of the illness:
Cause of hypothyroidism
We all know that hypothyroidism comes with a host of problems that upset the regular functioning of the body. The diagnosis of hypothyroidism is done based on the levels of TSH and T4 in the body, and is divided into the following categories:
|TSH levels||T4 levels||Type of hypothyroidism|
|Normal||Normal||Normal thyroid function|
This condition may arise due to any of the following factors, ranging from autoimmune diseases to radiation therapy:
Surgical procedures of the thyroid gland:
If a patient undergoes extensive surgical procedures that lead to the removal of a large portion of or the entire thyroid gland, it leads to a significant reduction/complete halt to thyroid production in the body. In such a case, the patient must be administered thyroid hormone externally for the rest of their lives to prevent the occurrence of hypothyroidism.
Autoimmune diseases are characterized by the production of excess antibodies in the body that attack native cells, causing deterioration of organs. In some cases, the antibodies end up attacking the thyroid gland, thereby interfering with its proper functioning.
People who undergo radiation therapy for treatment of other illnesses like brain and neck cancer are also known to be diagnosed with hypothyroidism, due to the interference of radiation with the thyroid gland functioning.
Other less common causes:
Apart from the above mentioned, other rarely observed causes include congenital diseases, pituitary disorders as well as iodine deficiency.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism
The symptoms of hypothyroidism include a host of complications, which include but are not limited to weight gain, dry skin as well as chronic fatigue. In adults, both in men and women, the symptoms include:
- The most prominent symptom in women is an alteration in their menstrual cycle. Thyroid hormone is essential for the regularity in the menstrual cycle, and any abnormalities in the same can be attributed to malfunctioning of the thyroid gland.
- Constipation and a slower heart rate than normal.
- Dry hair and/or hair loss is a common symptom since thyroid hormones also work with growth hormone to promote growth. Any decrease in thyroid levels disturbs growth patterns.
- Greater sensitivity to cold
- Swelling of the thyroid gland (also known as goitre) is caused due to deficiency of iodine in the body and leads to abnormally low thyroid levels in the body.
- Unexplained weight gain/weight loss
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: a nervous condition characterized by pain, numbness as well as tingling sensation in the hand and arm of the patient.
The symptoms to look out for in small children and infants
- Abnormally/chronically cold hands and feet
- Extreme drowsiness
- Hoarse cry, spitting
- Retarded growth (or none at all, in severe cases)
- Low muscle toning
- Persistent jaundice
- Puffy face, stomach bloating
- Swollen tongue
What is the thyroid gland? What are its main functions?
The gland of the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped, small gland that is positioned at the front part of the trachea. The thyroid gland secretes the thyroid hormone which is responsible for regular growth, coordination of energy as well as supporting growth in the body.
Are women more susceptible to hypothyroidism?
Yes, women are eight times more likely to be diagnosed with hypothyroidism or any other related thyroid disorder than men.
What is primary and secondary hypothyroidism?
Primary hypothyroidism is caused due to increase in TSH hormones. In this case, the thyroid gland cannot release more thyroid hormones in response. Secondary hypothyroidism is caused due to a decrease in levels TSH in the body. In this case, the thyroid gland does not receive the signal to produce thyroid hormones.
How hypothyroidism cause weight gain in patients?
Due to a decrease in thyroid levels in the body, the metabolism switches modes, which means that in case of burning calories for growth and other activities, the metabolic rate decreases in order to conserve energy. In order to store energy, the body tends to store calories in the form of fat.