The Many Effects of Hypothyroidism

An under effective Thyroid or Hypothyroidism occurs when the Thyroid Gland does not produce the required amount of a hormone named Thyroxin or T4.  This hormone is responsible for regulating many functions such as heart-rate, physical growth, digestion and mental development. Therefore, when this hormone is in short supply it can impact on life sustaining processes, damage tissues and organs in almost all parts of the body and lead to serious complications that can be life threatening.

Effects of Hypothyroidism May Not Be Immediately Apparent

Hypothyroidism is a reasonably common chronic disease.  Yet effects of hypothyroidism may not be manifested for years after the thyroid stops functioning. People often mistake the effects of hypothyroidism for symptoms of other conditions like menopause or ageing.  It is seen that two out of three people are ignorant about the effects of hypothyroidism.

Types of Hypothyroidism

There are three types of Hypothyroidism. The commonest form is primary hypothyroidism. In this type, the Thyroid produces an insufficient amount of T4.  The effects of hypothyroidism due to inadequacy of T4 are seen in weight, sleep patterns, appetite, body temperature, sex urge and many other mental as well as emotional areas.

Secondary hypothyroidism occurs when the Pituitary Gland fails to release adequate amounts of the hormone TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone).   TSH is responsible for stimulating the Thyroid to produce T4.

The third type of Hypothyroidism develops when the hypothalamus—the portion of the brain controlling the Endocrine system, malfunctions.

The effects of hypothyroidism can also be seen in drug induced cases, although they are rarely severe. This occurs in approximately 0.02% of cases.

Effects Of Hypothyroidism Commonly Include:

  • Decreased heart rate.
  • Undue fatigue.
  • Weight gain.
  • Progressive hearing loss.
  • Difficulty in concentration.
  • Loss of memory.
  • Depression.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Weakness.
  • Dry skin.
  • Loss or premature graying of hair
  • Unusual sensitivity to cold.
  • Irregular menstrual cycle.
  • Constipation.
  • Hoarseness of voice.

Most of the time the symptoms and effects of hypothyroidism are a gradual process.  If they do appear suddenly it’s usually due to a trigger event such as surgery and some types of medications.  In such cases a physician must be consulted.

The usual tests for hypothyroidism, namely TSH evaluation, may not reliably indicate if hypothyroidism is present, particularly in the early stages of the disease.  Therefore a doctor may order more sensitive tests to determine whether a patient has hypothyroidism.

Interesting Questions about Thyroid:

What is Graves’ Disease?

Graves’ disease is the most common form of hyperthyroidism. It affects many Americans, including Olympic athlete Gail Devers, who won a gold medal in track after being diagnosed with and treated for Graves’ disease.

Graves’ disease is caused by problems with the immune system. Normally, the immune system defends the body against germs and viruses. In autoimmune diseases such as Graves’, the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. In Graves’ disease, the body produces antibodies which make the thyroid gland produce too much thyroid hormone.

Diseases of the immune system tend to run in families and are about five times more common in women. Graves’ is linked to other autoimmune conditions, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, premature gray hair, diabetes mellitus, arthritis and patchy loss of skin pigment (vitiligo).

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How Do Doctors Test for Hypothyroidism?

As with any disease, it is important that you watch for the early warning signs of hypothyroidism. However, only your doctor can tell for sure whether or not you have the disease. Your doctor may examine:

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How is Hypothyroidism Treated?

The standard treatment for hypothyroidism is thyroid hormone pills. The pills provide the body with the right amount of thyroid hormone when the gland is not able to produce enough by itself. While the symptoms of hypothyroidism are usually corrected within a few months, most patients need to take the pills for the rest of their lives.

The preferred thyroid hormone for treatment is levothyroxine (T4). You should use only the brand-name that your doctor prescribes, since generic brands may not be as reliable. Name brand levothyroxine pills include Levothroid®, Synthroid®, Levoxyl®, and Eltroxin®.

Patients sometimes take more pills than they should, trying to speed up the treatment or lose weight. However, this can lead to hyperthyroidism, a disease in which there is too much thyroid hormone in the blood, and to long-term complications, such as osteoporosis. You should take the pills as your doctor prescribes.

At different times in your life, you may need to take different amounts of thyroid hormones. Therefore, you should see your doctor once a year to make sure everything is all right.

® Levothroid is a registered trademark of Forest Pharmaceuticals.
® Synthroid is a registered trademark of Knoll Pharmaceuticals.
® Levoxyl is a registered trademark of Jones Medical Industries.
® Eltroxin is a registered trademark of Roberts Pharmaceuticals.

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Have more questions? Need more answers? Check our Full Thyroid FAQ

Effects Of Hypothyroidism On Women

Hypothyroidism is a lot more common in women than men.  According to some statistics, the figure is as high as 70 to 80%.  Though hypothyroidism generally occurs in women over the age of 50, it can occur in women at any age, notably those of child-bearing age.  Between 5 and 10% of pregnant women and women who have given birth will develop thyroid disorders (ie postpartum thyroiditis) either during pregnancy or in the first 12 months following the birth.  Most of these cases resolve themselves with care and attention to health and diet but some will develop into hypothyroidism.

All new born infants in most developed countries are screened via a NST test for congenital thyroid deficiency or Cretinism.  The test measures thyroxin and thyroid hormone levels in their blood.

Effects Of Hypothyroidism In General

Hypothyroidism is often referred as a silent disease, because the effects of hypothyroidism are so mild in the initial stages that it may escape detection. If symptoms of hypothyroidism are not noticed in the initial stages, they may become progressively more severe leading to mental disorder, breathing problems, irregular heart-beat, changes in body temperature. Death may also occur in the most severe cases (myxedema coma).

If you notice you are developing some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism, it’s best to speak to your doctor as soon as possible and arrange to have a complete thyroid check up.  That way, if you do have, or are developing this condition, treatment can be started as soon as possible.

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Donna Morgan

Donna Morgan

Crank It is where inspiration, aspiration and solution converge to make things ‘happen’. Turn on your life or turn it around and see where it takes you!

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