A low thyroid, or hypothyroidism, occurs when your thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones to upkeep the regular function of your body. The thyroid is a small gland that sits at the front of the neck, and it’s responsible for providing energy to almost all the organs of the human body.
But, when the thyroid doesn’t function as normal, some serious side effects can occur. Untreated hypothyroidism is a serious condition that can even prove life-threatening if you do not access the right medical treatment.
What Are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
If your thyroid hormone levels are low, you can experience a variety of different symptoms, such as:
- Weight gain
- Heart disease
- Dry skin
- Hair loss, etc.
An underactive thyroid gland can present with vastly different symptoms in people, and for most, they will progress gradually over many years. As the condition progresses, the symptoms become more and more visible.
What Causes Hypothyroidism?
An underactive thyroid is generally linked to an autoimmune condition such as Hashimoto thyroiditis, which is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. The disease attacks the thyroid gland and causes chronic inflammation, which can reduce the gland’s function. Essentially, your body’s immune system believes the thyroid to be a threat and attacks it as a way to protect your body.
The condition is known to affect middle-aged women more commonly, but men can also be diagnosed with it. The condition runs in the family, so if you have a family history of Hashimoto thyroiditis, you should pay attention to any symptoms of hypothyroidism you might experience.
How Is It Diagnosed?
If you notice any symptoms of hypothyroidism, your doctor will take you through 2 main stages to confirm your diagnosis:
- Medical evaluation – a physical exam that will look for all the major symptoms low low production of the thyroid hormone
- Blood tests – the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test will confirm the diagnosis and measure the TSH levels the pituitary gland is producing.
How Is This Thyroid Disease Treated?
Unlike hyperthyroidism, when you are experiencing low thyroid hormone production, you will not undergo thyroid surgery, as this can make your symptoms worsen.
An underactive thyroid is usually treated through hormone replacement medication to regulate the TSH levels in your body. A common medication used for treating this thyroid disease is called levothyroxine.
Finding the best dosage of this medication can take some time, however, and will require multiple blood tests performed throughout the treatment to see how the body responds to the medication. The dose may be increased regularly to see the optimal dosage for your body.
Once this dosage is discovered, you will likely only need to have blood tests done once every year or so to see if your thyroid condition is progressing. Your symptoms may start to alleviate soon after taking the medication, though in some cases people have gone through a few months of treatment before they start noticing any improvements.
Left untreated, an underactive thyroid can progress and slowly affect the health of your entire body. Of course, experiencing weight gain or fatigue aren’t necessarily explainable only through a low thyroid hormone production, but if you do start noticing these symptoms, it’s important to reach out to your doctor for a check-up, to at least rule out the possibility.