The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that is located in front of your windpipe. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland does not produce enough of certain crucial hormones.
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones, which controls metabolism and many other functions of the body. Hypothyroidism or low levels of thyroid hormone will slow your metabolism and reduce the growth or repair of many parts of the body. Hypothyroidism has several causes, including Hashimoto’s disease which is an autoimmune disorder, where the body’s immune system mistakenly destroys its own thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism may not cause any noticeable symptoms in the early stage, but in time untreated hypothyroidism can cause several health problems, such as obesity, joint pain, infertility and heart disease.
Accurate thyroid function tests are required to diagnose hypothyroidism. Treatment with synthetic thyroid hormone is simple, safe and effective once you and your physician find the right dose for you. Your risk will be higher if your family member has been diagnosed with Hypothyroidism. Women are eight times more prone to develop a thyroid disorder than men. Thyroid problems can increase with age and may affect adults differently from children.
How are infants affected by Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism affects adults and older women, but it can also affect infants. New-borns may get symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as the following:
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice) – This occurs when a baby’s liver is unable to metabolize a substance called bilirubin, which forms when the body recycles old or damaged red blood cells.
- A large, protruding tongue.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Hoarse crying.
- An umbilical hernia.
As the disease progresses, infants will have trouble feeding and may fail to grow and develop normally. They may also have:
- Poor muscle tone
- Excessive sleepiness
If untreated, hypothyroidism in infants can lead to severe physical and mental retardation.
How are children and teens affected by Hypothyroidism?
Children and teenagers, who develop hypothyroidism, have the same signs and symptoms as adults, but they may also experience the following:
- Poor growth, resulting in short stature
- Delayed development of permanent teeth
- Delayed puberty
- Poor mental development
What are the risk factors for developing Hypothyroidism?
Although anyone can develop hypothyroidism, you will be at an increased risk:
- If you are a woman
- If you are older than 60
- If you have an auto-immune disease, such as Type 1 diabetes or celiac disease
- If you have been treated with radioactive iodine
- If you have received radiation to your neck or upper chest
- If you have had thyroid surgery (partial thyroidectomy)
- If you have been pregnant or delivered a baby within the past six months
- If you have a family history of thyroid disease
What are the Complications of Hypothyroidism?
Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to several health issues which include the following:
- Goitre – Constant stimulation of your thyroid to release more hormones will cause the gland to become larger, this condition is known as a Goiter. A large goitre will affect your appearance and will interfere with swallowing or breathing.
- Heart problems – Hypothyroidism is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and heart failure.
- Mental health issues – Hypothyroidism is associated with an increased risk of depression and may become severe over time. Hypothyroidism also slows down mental functioning.
- Peripheral neuropathy – Long-term uncontrolled hypothyroidism will cause damage to your peripheral nerves. These nerves carry information from your brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body, for example, your arms and legs. Peripheral neuropathy will cause pain, numbness and tingling in the affected areas.
- Myxedema – This is a result of long-term undiagnosed hypothyroidism and it is a life-threatening condition that includes intense cold intolerance and drowsiness. A myxedema coma can be triggered by sedatives, infection or stress.
- Infertility – Low levels of thyroid hormone will interfere with ovulation, which impairs fertility. An autoimmune disorder caused by hypothyroidism can also impair fertility.
- Birth defects – Babies born to women with untreated thyroid will have a higher risk of birth defects. These children will also be prone to serious intellectual and developmental problems. Infants with untreated hypothyroidism present at birth are at risk of serious physical and mental problems. But if this condition is diagnosed within the first few months of life, there are chances of normal development.
What are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
- Tiredness – The thyroid hormone is like a gas pedal for energy and metabolism. Low thyroid hormone levels will make you exhausted.
- Gaining Weight – Hypothyroidism signals the body to eat more, store calories and burn fewer calories and this leads to weight gain.
- Feeling Cold – Low thyroid hormone will slow down your body’s normal heat production and you will feel cold.
- Weakness and Aches in Muscles and Joints – Low levels of thyroid hormone slows down your metabolism and causes painful muscle breakdown.
- Hair Loss – Low thyroid hormone affects hair follicles which causes hair loss and coarsening of the hair.
- Itchy and Dry Skin – Hypothyroidism causes dry skin. A red swollen rash known as Myxedema indicates thyroid problems.
- Depression – Hypothyroidism causes depression and anxiety and these conditions will improve with thyroid hormone replacement.
- Trouble Concentrating or Remembering – Hypothyroidism causes mental fogginess and difficulty concentrating and it may also obstruct memory.
- Constipation – When constipation is accompanied by other signs of hypothyroidism, your thyroid may be the cause.
- Heavy or Irregular Periods – Heavy periods or irregular cycles could be caused by hypothyroidism.
- Undiagnosed hypothyroid in children may experience a growth rate at a slower pace.
- Mood swings
- Enlarged thyroid gland (goitre)
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How is Hypothyroidism Diagnosed?
Diagnosis can be done by testing the level of a pituitary hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). If the thyroid is producing normal levels of thyroid hormones, then the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) will be within the normal range. However, if the thyroid is underactive, then the pituitary secretes more TSH to activate the sluggish thyroid. Therefore, a higher level of TSH indicates an underactive thyroid. Most newborns are tested for hypothyroidism within 72 hours of birth as part of a routine screen test.
How can we win the struggle of Hypothyroidism with Natural Remedies?
If your thyroid hormone levels are low, you need a simple treatment to improve your quality of life. The standard treatment for hypothyroidism is to daily intake thyroid hormone replacement medication. But medications have side effects, and natural remedies may cause fewer side effects. Thyroid problems usually start as the result of:
- Poor diet
- Missing nutrients in your body
Therefore, changing your diet and taking herbal supplements are two ways you can help your thyroid condition.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), selenium is a trace element that can be used in thyroid hormone metabolism. Foods that contain selenium include the following:
- Brazil nuts
- Grass-fed beef
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis often reduces the body’s selenium supply and supplementing this will help to balance thyroxine, or T4, levels.
Sugar and processed foods lead to increased inflammation in the body. Inflammation can slow down the conversion of thyroid hormones which makes your symptoms and thyroid worse.
Vitamin supplements can have a positive effect on your thyroid. Low thyroid hormones can affect your body’s vitamin B-12 levels, but taking a vitamin B-12 supplement may help you to repair some of the damage caused by hypothyroidism.
Vitamin B-12 can help you with the tiredness caused by the thyroid. You can also add vitamin B to your diet, which includes the following:
- Peas and beans
- Sesame seeds
Probiotic supplements contain helpful bacteria that can help keep your stomach and intestines healthy.
Fermented food and drink, such as cheese, curd and yoghurt contain useful probiotics.
However, if you had surgery done to remove your thyroid, a natural thyroid treatment plan is not for you. As always, you should discuss any treatment plans with your physician before starting them.