The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that control metabolism. Hypothyroidism results when the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone. The most common form of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto thyroiditis.
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Hashimoto thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder. The immune system produces antibodies that attack cells of the thyroid gland.
Hypothyroidism may also be caused by: Congenital defects of the gland or how it worksIatrogenic—occurs as the result of surgery or radiation therapy for thyroid cancer treatmentIodine deficiency—rare in the USPituitary deficiencyUnknown reasons
Hypothyroidism is more common in women, and in those aged 65 years and older. Other factors that may increase your chance of hypothyroidism include: Family history of hypothyroidism
Autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, celiac disease,
type 1 diabetes, or
rheumatoid arthritisVitamin B12 deficiency
Certain health conditions, such as infiltrative disorders,
cancer, or infections
Surgery, radiation therapy, or radioablation in the neck regionCertain medications, such as lithium, iodine, or interleukinsPituitary adenoma—benign tumor of the pituitary gland
You may not have symptoms of hypthyroidism. In those that have symptoms, hypothyroidism may cause: FatigueWeaknessCoarse, brittle hair, and hair lossFacial puffinessDry skinSwollen hands or feetCold intoleranceWeight gainConstipationAchy feeling all overDepression
Memory lossDifficulty concentratingBlurred visionMenstrual abnormalities
Symptoms of severe or long-term hypothyroidism causes: Slow heart rateDepressed breathingHypothermia—low body temperature
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include blood tests to check levels of
thyroid stimulating hormone
(TSH), and/or free T4. Other tests may be recommended to rule out health conditions that are similar to hypothyroidism.
Thyroid replacement therapy involves taking medications that replace the function of the thyroid gland. This therapy may also prevent cancer cell growth in people who had surgery or radiation treatment for thyroid cancer.
People with Hashimoto thyroiditis are monitored as long as they have normal thyroid function and remain symptom-free. Once function decreases or symptoms appear, treatment is started with thyroid replacement therapy.
There are no current guidelines to prevent hypothyroidism.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and United States Preventive Services Task Force recommend screening all newborns for congenital hypothyroidism. If you are at high risk for developing hypothyroidism, talk to your doctor about annual screening.
Escobar-Morreale HF, Botella-Carretero JI, Escobar del Rey F, et al. Treatment of hypothyroidism with combinations of levothyroxine plus liothyronine.
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Roberts CG, Ladenson PW. Hypothyroidism.
Surks MI, Ortiz E, Daniels GH, et al. Subclinical thyroid disease: scientific review and guidelines for diagnosis and management.
Thyroid hormone treatment. American Thyroid Association website. Available at: http://www.thyroid.org/thyroid-hormone-treatment. Accessed December 14, 2015.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Kim A. Carmichael, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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