Hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid, is a disorder in which your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough hormones to meet your body’s needs. The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck which produces hormones that control how your body uses energy. These important hormones control many of your body’s most important functions including your metabolism, breathing, heart rate, digestion, and mood. When your thyroid slows down, these functions can be negatively affected.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism:
- Muscle weakness, stiffness, and/or aches
- Joint pain, stiffness, or swelling
- Memory problems
- Sudden weight gain (and difficulty losing it)
- High cholesterol
- Slow heart rate
- Dry, thinning hair
- Dry skin
- Decreased tolerance for cold
- Swelling of the thyroid gland (called a goiter)
- A puffy face
Women may experience heavy or irregular periods and fertility problems
Hypothyroidism generally develops slowly. Because of this, it sometimes takes several months, or even years, before the symptoms are noticed. Once detected, however, it is usually treatable.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. This is usually caused by an underlying condition.
Common causes of hypothyroidism include:
Autoimmune Conditions: Autoimmune conditions, like Hashimoto's disease, occur when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy tissue of the thyroid gland. This damages the thyroid and affects its ability to produce thyroid hormone.
Thyroiditis: Thyroiditis is the inflammation of the thyroid gland, usually caused by an infection or autoimmune disorder. This can cause the thyroidism to overproduce thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism), then become underactive.
Medication Usage: Certain medications can affect the thyroid gland's ability to produce thyroid hormone. If you begin to notice the signs or symptoms listed above while taking a prescription medication, talk to a health care provider right away.
Hypothyroidism Risk Factors
Hypothyroidism can affect anyone regardless of medical history, age, or gender. There are, however, several risk factors that might make you more susceptible for developing this condition.
You might be at greater risk for developing hypothyroidism if you are:
- A woman
- Have a family history of thyroid conditions
- Have an autoimmune condition like Type 1 diabetes
- Have had thyroid surgery
- Have received radiation therapy to the thyroid or neck
- Have undergone therapy for hyperthyroidism