Hypothyroidism is a disease that has plagued many unfortunate individuals for years. The organ affected is the thyroid gland, one of the largest components of the entire endocrine system. Located in the neck, right below the Adam’s apple, the thyroid gland’s main purpose is to produce hormones for the body. The primary hormones secreted by this gland are T3 or triiodothyronine and T4 or thyroxine. The gland is responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism, conserving energy consumption, producing protein, developing the brain, and controlling the sensitivity to other hormones. This disorder should not be confused with hyperthyroidism is which is the exact opposite. In hyperthyroidism, the thyroid is producing too many hormones. This article will focus on both symptoms of hypothyroidism and symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Causes of Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism has many causes for its existence in so many people, the chief among them being Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. This is a disease in which they immune system attacks the thyroid itself, greatly decreasing hormone production. Other minor causes include:
- Surgery to remove the thyroid gland
- Radiation therapy for cancer
- Viral infections
- Some drugs, such as lithium
- Genetic outcomes from breeding: Parents who either have autosomal dominant (meaning they have hypothyroidism) or autosomal recessive (they do not have the disease, but are carriers for it) could easily pass hypothyroidism down to their children
- Excessive iodine usage: Having too much iodine may actually trigger thyroid disease despite the fact it is an element mean to make thyroid hormones. This could cause the hormone production to go into overdrive
- High radiation exposure: Unhealthy levels of radiation can increase cases of thyroid disease. Incidents such as the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and the nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl can all cause radiation poisoning as well as create a breeding ground for hypothyroidism
Any number of these symptoms could lead to hypothyroidism symptoms.
Hypothyroid symptoms are characterized by hormonal imbalance and the effects this has on the rest of the body’s functions:
- inability to withstand cold temperatures
- increased pain in joints and muscles
- weight gain
- slowed heart rate
- skin dryness
- decreased sweating
- memory problems, depression, or problems concentrating
- yellowish skin
- slow body movement
Hashimoto’s Disease and Hypothyroidism Symptoms
Hashimoto’s disease is the prominent cause of hypothyroidism symptoms. It is an autoimmune disorder and infamous for causing the immune system attacks the thyroid. An intense inflammation and swelling known as a goiter will form in the thyroid and may eventually destroy the thyroid tissue given time. This severely limits thyroid hormone production, causing hypothyroidism. Women and older adults are more likely to have this disease.
Besides Hashimoto’s disease, there also exist several other minor hypothyroidism symptoms as well:
- Weight gain
- Face puffiness and paleness
- Muscle and joint pain
- Loss of body temperature
- Pregnancy problems
- Loss of hair
- Brittle hair
- Extreme menstrual periods
- Slowed heart rate
There are many components to treating hypothyroidism symptoms, but perhaps the best way is treating it early. Detecting signs of hypothyroidism relies on measuring Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone and thyroxine levels. Low levels will indicate any hypothyroidism symptoms.
Thyroid hormone pills are usually prescribed by doctors, in the case the condition worsens. These are hormone supplements for the thyroid as it is unable to produce the required amount in its current state. While this is a very effective form of treatment, it is a life time commitment.
The doctor will provide the exact measurements of the dosage as each patient is different. As said before, these measurements come from the lab’s results from the hypothyroidism testing. Every person will be different, so a customized dosage is required. Too much will make the thyroid over active, too little will yield no real results. Many factors go into play when treating hypothyroidism symptoms:
- severity of hypothyroidism
- other health problems
- other medicines that may interact with synthetic thyroid hormones
Synthetic hormones are often used as medication to replace any lost thyroid hormones. This form of treatment includes the use of synthetic substances such as:
- Levothyroxine (Synthetic Thyroxine/T4)
- Liothyronine (Synthetic Triiodothyronine/T3)
- Liotrix (Synthetic Thyroxine/Triiodothyronine T4/T3 Combination)
- Desiccated Natural Thyroid
If there is too little, a severe form of hypothyroidism may form, known as a myxedema coma (source). This is a severe illness in which a loss of brain function occurs from extreme and prolonged exposure to low levels of thyroid hormone in the blood. In the worst case scenario, death may occur. In order to stop this, thyroid surgical removal or a thyroidectomy would be needed to treat this kind of hypothyroidism symptom.
In hyperthyroidism, the thyroid produces too many hormones in the body. An excess of thyroid hormones speeds up the body’s processes. Just as too little hormones negatively impact the body, too many hormones can prove to be just as harmful.
In post-treatment, it is important to have blood tests to ensure that hyperthyroidism has been eliminated. It is also equally important to make sure there is still a reasonable amount of hormones still left. If this were to occur, hypothyroidism could be inadvertently created.
In contrast to hypothyroidism symptoms, hyperthyroidism causes an excess amount of hormones to speed up the body’s functions:
- Increased metabolism causes the body to lose weight quickly
- Rapid heart beating
- Increased sweat
- Bone and heart problems
- Thyroid storm
Treating hyperthyroid symptoms is fortunately much easier and simpler than treating hypothyroid symptoms:
Radioactive iodine – is one of the most common of treatments for hyperthyroidism. This substance destroys parts of the thyroid gland while not harming any other areas of the body. This process will cut down on thyroid hormone production. This is effective enough that in most cases, only one dose is needed.
Anti-thyroid medicine – this is best used when the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are mild. Taken in a pill form, this treatment does not damage the thyroid. If this option fails, then the radioactive iodine is usually the next step taken.