HypothyroidismHypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is a relatively common condition that occurs when the thyroid—the small, butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck—doesn’t make enough hormones. The thyroid is responsible for producing triiodothyronine and thyroxine hormones that play an important role in many key bodily functions, such as metabolism, heart rate and body temperature. A lack of these hormones can trigger a wide array of symptoms and complications, ranging from mental health problems to heart disease.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States is another condition known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that results in chronic thyroid inflammation and reduced thyroid function. Underactive thyroid is also linked to radiation treatment, thyroid surgery and certain medications.
Additionally, you may be at an increased risk of developing hypothyroidism if you:
- Are 60 or older
- Are female
- Have type 1 diabetes, Sjögren’s syndrome or another autoimmune condition
- Have a close family member with hypothyroidism
- Have been pregnant within the past six months
The symptoms of hypothyroidism can vary significantly from person to person based on specific hormone levels, overall health and several other factors. Generally speaking, symptoms tend to worsen slowly and may involve:
- Weight gain
- Frequently feeling cold
- Dry skin
- Puffy and sensitive facial skin
- Thinning hair
- Muscle or joint pain
- Voice hoarseness
- High cholesterol
- Slow heart rate
- A goiter (enlarged thyroid)
- Menstrual cycle changes
It’s important to promptly speak with a medical professional if you notice symptoms of hypothyroidism. If left untreated, an underactive thyroid can progress to cause potentially serious complications.
Diagnosing hypothyroidism involves an evaluation of symptoms and blood tests that measure thyroid hormone levels or thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is produced by the pituitary gland. If your thyroid isn’t making enough hormones, your pituitary gland may boost TSH production to compensate.
At Tampa General Hospital, patients with hypothyroidism have access to a full range of diagnostics and treatment. Most patients benefit from medications to restore key hormone levels and alleviate symptoms. For some people, symptoms may disappear completely. Lifelong management is key to successful hypothyroidism treatment and avoiding complications.