Hypothyroidism and Its Symptoms

Hypothyroidism of underactive thyroid gland is a common health problem. It is more common among females than males. Especially women of above 60 years of age are vulnerable to this medical condition. This is a condition where thyroid gland does not produce adequate amount of thyroid hormones (mainly T3 and T4).

Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can undermine the normal chemical reactions that take place normally in an individual. Usually at the beginning of hypothyroidism, there are hardly any symptoms if any, because thyroid gland tries to compensate low levels of thyroid hormones, by trying to increase its secretion. However, over time as the disease continues symptoms appear and may create trouble for the sufferer. There are tests available which can detect thyroid hormone levels accurately and it is possible to treat hypothyroidism adequately without any problem. The only thing required is monitoring of thyroid hormone levels and adjustment of medication according to thyroid hormone level in blood.

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

Symptoms and signs of hypothyroidism vary in different individuals as well as depending on the severity of the condition (or depending on the level of thyroid hormones and duration of the disease). In most of the cases hypothyroidism develops slowly over several years. In many individuals there may not be any symptoms, but only abnormality in thyroid profile. This condition is known as subclinical hypothyroidism. In subclinical hypothyroidism, thyroid hormone levels may be within normal limit, but TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level is high, which indicate overstimulation of thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormone. If this continues for years, thyroid gland may be enlarged, known as goiter.

Initially there may be only vague symptoms in hypothyroidism. The symptoms and signs of hypothyroidism include:

  • Fatigue or generalized weakness and muscle weakness
  • Feeling of cold or sensitivity to cold. Feeling of cold even during hot summer months
  • Constipation
  • Lower heart rate (pulse rate)
  • Dryness of skin
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Puffiness of face and weight gain (weight gain due to lower metabolic rate)
  • Higher blood cholesterol
  • Swelling, pain or stiffness of joints
  • Tenderness, stiffness and ache in muscles
  • Irregular menstruation or heavier than usual menstrual bleeding
  • Depression
  • Memory disturbance

If hypothyroidism is not treated adequately, the signs and symptoms may become worse. In hypothyroidism if left untreated, it may lead to life threatening medical emergency of low levels of thyroid hormones (extreme hypothyroidism) known as myxedema. If not treated as medical emergency survival of patient may not be possible in case of myxedema.

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