Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces a suboptimal amount of thyroid hormone, hence underactive, resulting in a lower rate of metabolism. Early symptoms of hypothyroidism are often neglected by patients as they are usually minor. Therefore, hypothyroidism is seldom clinically diagnosed in the early stage and may lead to fatal complications if untreated. Contrary to common belief, iodine deficiency is not the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Read more about circumventing hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is the consequence of the lack of action of the thyroid gland, which is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland at the lower front of the neck. It is usually characterized by inadequate thyroid hormone production, secretion and action. There are 2 major types of thyroid hormones, namely thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), to maintain normal body processes like energy production, sensation and body temperature regulation. In the case of hypothyroidism, cellular metabolism would be slowed down, giving rise to a series of signs and symptoms such as unexplained weight gain, slower pulse rate, loss of sensations, feeling cold, etc. It is particularly dangerous if myxoedema coma develops due to severe hypothyroidism and slow metabolism.
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland cannot serve the purpose of maintaining a normal level of thyroid hormones anymore, thus normal metabolisms are not attained. Contrary to popular belief, hypothyroidism is rarely caused by iodine deficiency, especially in developed areas like Hong Kong as iodine supply in food is usually ample. In fact, there are 3 types of reasons for hypothyroidism, primary (the inaction of the thyroid gland), central (the inaction of the central nervous system) and congenital (hypothyroidism acquired upon birth). More common causes of hypothyroidism include:
The above causes will directly lead to hypothyroidism. However, there are some other habits or traits that, despite not directly causing hypothyroidism, increase the risk of hypothyroidism:
The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism, often associated with a lower metabolic rate, include:
If hypothyroidism is neglected and untreated, various complications will ensue:
Upon detecting the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism by physical examinations, other tests below should be done as soon as possible to confirm the presence of hypothyroidism and avoid its complications:
The treatments of hypothyroidism may include:
Hypothyroidism patients may consider taking food rich in selenium, including beef, beans, nuts, eggs and shellfish. If your hypothyroidism is not caused by your immune system, then you may also consider taking food rich in iodine, including seaweed, fish and eggs.
Thyroid neck check may be carried out while facing a mirror. Thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland at the lower front of the neck. Tilt your head back slowly while swallowing a sip of water. If there is an abnormal bulge around the lower front area, you might have an enlarged thyroid. For those with the risk factors mentioned above, regular self-check tests are recommended.
Thyroid can affect the thickness and pattern of your period. It may make your menstrual cycle irregular or even stopped. When the thyroid hormone level is out of the normal range, prolactin release is affected correspondingly which alters one’s period and ovulation. Therefore, abnormalities will be observed in one’s period if the thyroid hormone levels are not right.
*This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Gordon Chak Man Cheung from the London Medical Clinic, Central, Hong Kong. Dr. Cheung is a General Practitioner in HK who received his medical degree from King’s College London, University of London. Before completing his General Practice specialist training in UK, Dr. Cheung had worked in various hospitals in London and South East England in Cardiology, Endocrinology, Oncology, Paediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynaecology. He holds numerous postgraduate medical qualifications including Memberships to the Royal Colleges of Physicians in UK and to the Royal College of General Practitioners, Diploma of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Child Health as well as Clinical Dermatology.
This article was independently written by Healthy Matters. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.
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