The thyroid is on average the size of a monarch butterfly, even though relatively small, your thyroid has a big impact on your entire body. Not only responsible for creating the hormones that affect your metabolism, but it also plays a part in how your bones, heart, nervous system, and other organs work.
If your thyroid is underperforming, you might have a condition called hypothyroidism where your thyroid does not produce enough hormones. While that might sound frightening, it is relatively common. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, around 5 out of every 100 Americans have the condition, with the majority of cases being mild or difficult to notice.
Like kidney disease or type 2 diabetes, many hypothyroidism symptoms in women and men are rarely noticed. That is because many of the symptoms often come naturally or are assumed to be a part of a common disease.
Symptoms: What are the warning signs of hypothyroidism?
According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), many Hypothyroidism symptoms in women and men are seldom noticed early on. Additionally, the symptoms can be confused with those of other conditions as it progresses. When worrying about the condition, some hypothyroidism symptoms to look out for can include the following:
Cause: What causes hypothyroidism?
According to the American Thyroid Association, a handful of hypothyroidism causes exist. They primarily have to do with the following:
What is the most common cause of hypothyroidism?
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and damage to the thyroid gland. In Hashimoto's thyroiditis, the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland, leading to a gradual loss of thyroid function and a decrease in thyroid hormone production.
Who usually gets hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism can affect people of any age, gender, or ethnicity, but some groups may be more likely to develop the condition than others. For example, women are more likely than men to develop hypothyroidism, particularly as they get older.
Hypothyroidism can also run in families, so so anyone with a family history of thyroid disease may be at increased risk. Additionally, people with autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus, may have a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism.
Other risk factors for hypothyroidism include previous thyroid surgery or radiation treatment, iodine deficiency, certain medications (such as lithium), and pregnancy. In rare cases, hypothyroidism may be present at birth (congenital hypothyroidism).
Diagnosis: How do you diagnose hypothyroidism?
The diagnosis of hypothyroidism typically involves a combination of blood tests and physical exams. The most common blood test used to diagnose hypothyroidism measures the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine (T4) in the blood.
TSH levels are often elevated in people with hypothyroidism, while T4 levels are decreased. Additional blood tests may also be performed to check for other thyroid hormones, such as triiodothyronine (T3), and thyroid antibodies. Such a test can help identify autoimmune causes of hypothyroidism. Not sure if you have hypothyroidism? You can get tested easily with CallonDoc here.
In addition to blood tests, a physical exam may also be used to diagnose hypothyroidism. During a physical exam, a healthcare provider may check for symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as dry skin, hair loss, and weight gain. They may also check for an enlarged thyroid gland or other abnormalities.
In some cases, imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or a radioactive iodine uptake test, may also help diagnose hypothyroidism or identify the condition's underlying cause.
Treatment: What is the primary treatment for hypothyroidism?
Blood tests are the primary tool used to diagnose hypothyroidism. The most common tests used are:
Once a diagnosis of hypothyroidism is confirmed, the doctor may perform additional tests to determine the condition's underlying cause. This may involve imaging tests like an ultrasound, CT scan, or thyroid gland biopsy.
At what TSH level should hypothyroidism be treated?
The American Thyroid Association recommends that treatment for hypothyroidism should be considered in adults with a TSH level above the upper limit of the reference range and who have symptoms of hypothyroidism or a TSH level above 10 mIU/L regardless of symptoms. The reference range for TSH can vary slightly between different labs but is typically around 0.4 to 4.0 mIU/L.
Can hypothyroidism be cured?
In most cases, hypothyroidism cannot be cured. However, it can be effectively managed with lifelong treatment, typically taking a daily dose of synthetic thyroid hormone. The goal of treatment is to restore normal levels of thyroid hormone in the body, which can alleviate symptoms and prevent complications associated with hypothyroidism.
Prevention: What helps prevent hypothyroidism?
Unfortunately, there is yet to be a surefire way to prevent hypothyroidism in all cases. According to MedicalNewsToday, things you can monitor are not necessarily conducive to preventing hypothyroidism, with the best examples being diet control as well as checking the medications you take.
According to the American Thyroid Association, a way to reduce your chances of hypothyroidism or to reduce the condition’s severity before it develops is to maintain a healthy diet that avoids heavy intakes of fat and sodium. Additionally, the hypothyroidism diet is the same as one recommended ordinarily, but to be clear, it would include the following:
How can I boost my thyroid naturally?
While there is no guaranteed way to prevent hypothyroidism, there are some natural strategies that may help support thyroid function and promote overall health. Here are some tips:
Hypothyroidism can be difficult to self-diagnose but can have a huge impact on your body. If you think you or a loved one might be at risk for hypothyroidism, getting tested and appropriate treatment will help your overall day-to-day health and demeanor.