Hypothyroidism: causes, symptoms, and treatment

Hypothyroidism (overactive thyroid) is a condition that has a large range of symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, depression, and constipation to name a few and these symptoms are caused when the Thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones for the body to function correctly. The Thyroid gland is small but is responsible for virtually all metabolic activity in the body so you can see why such a wide range of symptoms are present in Hypothyroidism sufferers.

What is hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)? One of the major issues with hypothyroidism is that quite often it is overlooked even if cases of obesity. Even when combined with other symptoms, doctors often tend to treat the symptoms as separate parts, or in the case of obesity, as related symptoms of the obesity rather than the obesity and other symptoms being related symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Many times a patient has to take things into his or her own hands and insist that the doctor pursue this frequently overlooked avenue as a cause for obesity. That isn’t to say that it is the most common hypothyroidism causes of obesity, however, if a person has tried to lose weight and fails, the possibility of a slow metabolism related to hypothyroidism is worth investigating.

Treating hypothyroidism is not difficult once it is diagnosed. The key is bringing the condition to the attention of the doctor and assuring that tests are conducted to either confirm or rule out hypothyroidism before the search for other reasons for the symptoms. Once tests confirm that you suffer from hypothyroidism, your health care provider can begin the proper regimen of treatment.

Complexities of hypothyroidism

With so many causes and risk factors, it can only be said that hypothyroidism is a complex disease and one that does not play favorites with its victims. Perhaps to call survivors victims is not the right word; however, it is appropriate to say that it definitely creates a complex lifestyle for those who fall prey to its symptoms. For those who suffered silently, thinking their fatigue was related to weight gain, the knowledge that even obesity has a physical and treatable cause is quite a relief. Of course, the mere taking of replacement hormones is not going to help take off the weight that is a symptom of the hypothyroidism, but with the treatment plan and healthy eating, the increased metabolism will allow the calories to burn at a faster rate, thus making the weight come off faster than it would have otherwise.

For our wee little ones, it’s more complex than that of adults, especially infants whose little bodies are still developing. For them, it is important to recognize the possibility of hypothyroidism before it has progressed to the stage where it can stunt growth. For an infant, the first sign of a possible thyroid condition may be the inability to thrive, meaning that the nourishment the baby consumes does not allow him or her to gain weight at a steady pace as is normal for infants. Regular visits to the baby’s doctor will allow this to be detected early, but if you notice it in between doctor visits, be sure to call the doctor right away so that blood tests can be performed to detect the presence of a thyroid problem.

Although the disease tends to attack those over the age of 50, no one is immune to a thyroid problem, even teenagers. A sign of fatigue in someone who is getting a reasonable amount of sleep is something that should be brought to the doctor’s attention, as should an unexplained weight gain. Even if you think that weight gain and fatigue are interconnected, it’s better to let your doctor make that determination. It’s better to find out that you just need to lose weight to have more energy than to let it go and find out that the cause was a treatable hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism symptoms and signs

The following are some of the most common underactive thyroid symptoms:

– Excessive tiredness. One of the most persistent features of hypothyroidism is excessive tiredness. Sufferers regularly feel exhausted as soon as they wake up and find that even 8-10 hours of sleep a night leaves them fatigued. If you can’t get through the day without taking a nap, an underactive thyroid may be the cause.Weight gain. This symptom occurs with hypothyroidism in men and women equally. The thyroid plays an important role in regulating your metabolism, and an underactive thyroid can prevent you from burning calories effectively. Weight gain is a common result.

Sufferers often continue to increase in body mass by several pounds every year, despite reducing their calorie intake and increasing their physical activity. Any unexplained changes in your weight can be a sign of hypothyroidism. New research has found that even thyroid function within the normal range if it is just slightly lower than average, is enough to cause weight gain.

– Heavy, prolonged, and irregular menstrual periods in women. These hypothyroidism symptoms in women are very common.

Hormone levels within a woman’s body are delicately balanced, so when your thyroid does not function correctly, your period may be affected. Irregular or very heavy period caused by low hormone levels is one of the most common thyroid symptoms in women. In severe cases, the condition can even affect fertility and increase the risk of miscarriage.

– Depression and anxiety. An overactive thyroid can have just as bad an impact on your emotional health as your physical well-being. Ongoing mental health problems like depression and anxiety can be the result of a thyroid condition. This is even more likely if the emotional disorder does not respond to antidepressant treatment.

– Constipation. Constipation is a particularly troublesome symptom for many people with a thyroid condition. Hypothyroidism slows down your whole digestive system, resulting in weaker colon contractions and ultimately makes you feel sluggish or bloated. If you usually have three bowel movements or fewer per week, you are suffering from constipation and should make a visit to your doctor.

– High cholesterol which is unexplained by your diet or fitness level, is often the sign of an undiagnosed underactive thyroid. Cholesterol-lowering medication is unlikely to have much effect if hypothyroidism is the underlying cause.

Hypothyroidism during pregnancy

One of the most common thyroid problems that occur during pregnancy is that of hypothyroidism. Outside of pregnancy, hypothyroidism can cause a variety of changes in the menstrual cycle such as irregularity, heavy periods, or loss of periods. If it is severe, it creates the potential for infertility or problems becoming pregnant. In fact, checking the thyroid gland function by performing a simple blood test is an integral aspect when evaluating a woman who is having difficulty becoming pregnant. However, treating a woman suffering from infertility with thyroid hormones when blood tests are normal is of no benefit whatsoever, and may, in fact, cause other problems.

One of the problems with hypothyroidism during pregnancy is that some symptoms such as weight gain and tiredness already exist with a high rate of frequency during pregnancy. Because of that, hypothyroidism is often overlooked as a possible cause of those particular symptoms during pregnancy. A blood test that measures the TSH level can determine if the cause of the symptoms is related to hypothyroidism or are pregnancy-related symptoms.

Because thyroid medications are identical to the thyroid hormone that the body’s thyroid gland makes naturally, they are quite safe for a pregnant woman with hypothyroidism to take during pregnancy. The replacement hormones that are required to treat the disease do not have any side effects for the mother or the baby as long as the proper doses are used. Even if hypothyroidism is not detected in the mother during pregnancy, it will not cause abnormal development of the thyroid in the developing baby.

One important thing for a pregnant woman with hypothyroidism to remember is that if you were previously treated for the condition, you will possibly need a higher dosage during pregnancy. It will be necessary for her to communicate with her doctor periodically throughout the pregnancy to determine if the medication dosage needs to be adjusted. In addition, tests to review thyroid function should be administered every two to three months of the pregnancy. After the birth of the baby, the thyroid hormone dosage should return to the dosage that the woman was taking prior to pregnancy and a review of thyroid function tests performed every two months. Of course, this is part of the course of routine treatment for any case of hypothyroidism, not just post-partum.

Hypothyroidism or obesity

Everyone is guilty of looking at an extremely obese person and wondering why he or she doesn’t do something about it. After all, surely no one wants to be stared at because of having several layers of flesh. The thing many of us don’t think about when we comment on a person’s weight, even silently, is that it may be something out of their control. How many cases of obesity are related to hypothyroidism is hard to determine, but it is definitely one of the signs of untreated hypothyroidism just as excessive thinness is a symptom of hyperthyroidism.

The problem with treatment many times is that the health care provider does not take the time to test a patient for hypothyroidism if obesity is the only symptom or is in combination with fatigue, but rather assumes that the fatigue is a result of the weight gain. As patients, we must take the initiative to tell our physicians that we want to be tested for this condition, especially if we have tried to lose weight and our metabolism doesn’t seem to work in our favor.

One of the major jobs of the thyroid is to control metabolism, and if that is not working at peak capacity, it means our bodies are not burning fat at a fast enough rate to prevent weight gain. Even for a person of normal weight, the body must burn calories at the same weight as they are consumed in order to maintain a certain weight. If that process is interrupted, as with hypothyroidism, one can eat the same amount of food, get the same amount of exercise, and still gain weight because the metabolism is not working properly to burn the calories.

If you feel that you are doing all of the right things and are still gaining weight, it’s time to ask your physician to test you for hypothyroidism. If that is the reason for the slow metabolism, you can begin a regimen of hormone therapy that will get your metabolism working at peak efficiency again so that your body will return to its normal weight, and you will not feel so tired and sluggish with the extra weight. Don’t feel you have to live with the condition because it can be diagnosed and treated effectively, allowing you to live a normal life.

Top 5 hypothyroidism treatments you should consider

If you’re looking for a hypothyroidism treatment the good news is that they come in many forms, ranging from medications (hormonal drugs) to surgery.

People who are suffering from hypothyroidism will generally have symptoms that include joint pain, muscle pain, hair thinning, dry or puffy eyes, constipation, deepened voice, weight gain, and fatigue, while the factors which can cause the disease may lie in the use of previous hyperthyroid treatment. Regarding the onset of the disease, it’s generally gradual.

1. Hormone replacement drugs

If you have a low hypothyroidism TSH levels, then you will be prescribed hormonal drugs. You can find them in the form tablets and you’re required to take them for up to six months so that your thyroid function is balanced. During the treatment though your blood levels need to be monitored and you’ll, unfortunately, have to consider the pills for the rest of your life.

  Synthroid (Levothyroxine)  is one of the most common means in the 21st century. It is used in many cases, because this drug improves metabolic processes, stimulates the development of cells.  Dosage is determined individually at the time of admission by an endocrinologist.

– Tapazole – an effective drug for hypothyroidism treatment. This includes Graves’ disease, toxic multinodular goiter, and thyrotoxic crisis. An early suspension of treatment will lead to the return of the disease.

Some patients may notice a difference in one or two weeks, but for others, it may take a month or two before there is any noticeable difference. Because of the rate at which each patient responds to treatment, it’s important for a person with hypothyroidism to report any changes, positive or negative, to the doctor so that he or she can evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment plan and make adjustments as needed. If the plan isn’t working as well as expected, adjustments in dosage or alternative treatments can be reviewed. The goal is to get your thyroid hormones back to a normal level, and that can only be accomplished under the supervision of your doctor. Working side by side with your health care provider greatly enhances the rate of success.

2. Supplements

It seems that supplements can actually be a good alternative when you’re suffering from a hypothyroid condition. If your case is a mild one, then you may add various nutrients to your diets, such as L-tyrosine, vitamin A, selenium, and iodine, as they will help you a lot. Be sure that you will only consider these alternatives while being supervised by your physician.

Also, be careful with foods like cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli, as these will impair the uptake of iodine in the thyroid and eventually your thyroid function will be negatively affected.

3. Homeopathic treatment

By combining homeopathic treatment with prescription drugs for treating your hypothyroid, you will actually get some pretty nice results. Some examples of homeopathic treatments include Lycopus and Iodum, but bear in mind that considering them should be monitored by your homeopath or your physician.

4. Environment

As strange as it may sound, the environment in which you live may affect your thyroid functions. The chemicals in cigarettes, pesticides, and also herbicides can easily disrupt the hormones controlling your thyroid. If you want to relieve the pains and aches associated with hypothyroid conditions, you should know that acupuncture treatments are very efficient in this regard. Also, you should follow a hypothyroidism diet to stabilize the thyroid gland. It is necessary to treat hypothyroidism. Left unattended, the disease can lead to the formation of an adenoma (tumor) of the pituitary gland. Learn how to get rid of this problem with a diet.

5. Surgery

Many of us will choose to undergo surgery when suffering from hypothyroidism and if you had one, you’ll sometimes experience fluid retention or local swelling. The buildup of fluid has been shown though to be relieved by using massaging neck therapy in 50% of the patients that had this treatment. However, if you have an enlarged thyroid, you should not consider a neck massage.

With that being said, you should consider having a hypothyroidism test and then schedule an appointment with your physician in order to discuss the severity of your hypothyroid. Some options presented above may be a very good approach for your case, so be sure you see your physician to be properly advised in this regard.

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