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Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism

THYROID CONDITION

Hypothyroidism is a medical condition characterized by an underactive thyroid gland, leading to insufficient production of thyroid hormones, primarily triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).

Causes

Hypothyroidism can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Hashimoto's thyroiditis: An autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the thyroid gland, leading to reduced hormone production.

  • Surgical removal of the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy) or treatment with radioactive iodine for hyperthyroidism.

  • Certain medications, such as lithium or amiodarone, can interfere with thyroid function.

  • Radiation therapy to the neck or head, which can affect the thyroid gland.

  • Congenital hypothyroidism: Present at birth, this condition occurs when a baby is born with an underactive thyroid gland or when the thyroid gland doesn't develop properly.

Symptoms

Common symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:

  • Fatigue and sluggishness

  • Weight gain or difficulty losing weight

  • Cold intolerance

  • Dry skin and hair

  • Brittle nails

  • Constipation

  • Muscle aches and weakness

  • Depression or mood changes

  • Memory problems

  • Irregular menstrual cycles

  • Decreased heart rate

  • Swelling of the face and legs

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Diagnosis

Doctors diagnose hypothyroidism through a combination of medical history, physical examination, and blood tests. Blood tests measure thyroid hormone levels (T3 and T4) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). In hypothyroidism, T3 and T4 levels are low, while TSH levels are typically elevated as the body attempts to stimulate the thyroid gland to produce more hormones.

Treatment

Hypothyroidism is generally treated with thyroid hormone replacement therapy, typically in the form of synthetic thyroid hormones like levothyroxine (Synthroid). The medication helps to restore normal thyroid hormone levels in the body. It's important for individuals with hypothyroidism to take their medication as prescribed and undergo regular follow-up testing to adjust the dosage as needed.

Complications

If left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to various health complications, including:

  • Elevated cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart disease

  • Myxedema coma (a rare, life-threatening condition characterized by severe hypothyroidism)

  • Neurological issues, such as peripheral neuropathy

  • Infertility and menstrual problems in women

  • Mental health issues, including depression and cognitive impairment

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