What Are The Complications of Hypothyroidism?

Untreated or poorly managed (and uncontrolled hypothyroidism) hypothyroidism can lead to various complications and health problems. It is therefore important to treat hypothyroidism adequately and thyroid hormones (TSH, T3 and T4) kept within normal range, to prevent complications and health hazards it may bring.

Complications of hypothyroidism are:

  • Myxedema coma: this is the most serious complication of hypothyroidism, which is potentially life threatening emergency, if not treated promptly and adequately. Myxedema coma usually occur in patients with undiagnosed and long standing hypothyroidism. The condition is usually triggered by some triggering factors such as infection, use of sedatives, or some physical or mental trauma. Symptoms of myxedema coma are feeling of intense cold, extreme intolerance of cold, lethargy and disturbance or loss of consciousness. If any diagnosed or undiagnosed patient of hypothyroidism suffer from such symptoms, admit in hospital immediately for timely and emergency management.
  • Goiter: any enlargement (from any cause) of thyroid gland is called goiter. Thyroid gland may become enlarged when there is constant stimulation by TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), which is very high in case of Goiter may not be very harmful, but an enlarged (especially when it is very big) can have cosmetic problem as well as some symptoms such as breathing problem and problem in swallowing. Hence, goiter should be treated by thyroid hormone supplementation and by surgical method, combine. Because any single method (medications or surgery) may not give satisfactory result.
  • Infertility: hypothyroidism is common cause of infertility. Test for thyroid hormones is done routinely in all the fertility clinics. Low thyroid hormone level interfere with ovulation and result in infertility. Hence, it is important to treat hypothyroidism in cases of infertility.
  • Cardiovascular diseases: low thyroid hormone is usually associated with high LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) level, which in turn is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Even subclinical hypothyroidism can result in increase in LDL and increased risk of heart diseases, hence subclinical hypothyroidism, should also be treated, if diagnosed.
  • Birth defects: the risk of birth defect is high in case of babies born to mothers with poorly controlled or untreated/uncontrolled hypothyroidism, in compare to babies born to healthy mothers with normal thyroid profile or mother well treated and well controlled thyroid hormones. However, if the condition of the babies are diagnosed early and treated adequately, the chance of normal development is excellent. Hence, babies born to mothers with hypothyroidism (whether well controlled or poorly controlled) need to be thoroughly investigated.
  • Mental health problems: patients suffering from hypothyroidism are at greater risk of mental health problems such as depression, weak mental functioning and it may slowly worsen over time unless treated properly.
  • Peripheral neuropathy: hypothyroidism, if left untreated for long time or poorly controlled (thyroid hormones) for long time, may affect peripheral nerves and cause neuropathy of peripheral nerves.

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