Underactive thyroid gland or hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce sufficient quantities of thyroid hormone. According to Mayo Clinic, the inability to produce adequate hormones upsets the chemical reaction balance inside the body, thereby causing health problems. Hypothyroidism can arise due to radiation therapy, autoimmune disease, use of certain medications and radiation therapy. The other known causes include pituitary disorder, iodine deficiency, and congenital diseases. The symptoms associated with hypothyroidism include; dry skin, high cholesterol, high sensitivity to cold, weight gain and muscle weaknesses. People with hypothyroidism may also suffer from depression, impaired memory, and swelling of the joints. The symptoms usually develop over time but can result in serious problems if left untreated.
Babies born with hypothyroidism often have a protruding tongue, puffy facial appearance, and yellowing of the whites of the eye and skin. The yellowing usually occurs when the baby’s liver fails to metabolize bilirubin, a substance created when damaged Red Blood Cells is recycled. As the condition progresses, infant’s may develop feeding difficulties, poor growth and development, excessive sleepiness and intellectual and physical disability. A doctor may recommend an abbreviated thyroid function test to screen newborns for the presence of hypothyroidism. Besides, infants and children, women ages 60 or above are highly susceptible to hypothyroidism. Regular screenings are necessary for diagnosing the illness and preventing the onset of complications. According to Endocrine web, adults with hypothyroidism usually experience the following complications:
#1. Heart problems – the normal functioning of the heart can be impacted, even by the benign form of hypothyroidism. The risk of developing heart conditions grows with the increase in bad cholesterol. High concentrations of LDL can cause the hardening of the arteries, which in turn increases the risk of stroke and heart attack. Studies also suggest hypothyroidism can reduce the volume of blood pumped by the heart during each beat by as much as 50%. The other illness is pericardial effusion, a condition that amasses fluid around the heart. Pericardial effusion makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood.
#2. Goiter – this condition may arise when the thyroid tries to overexert itself in order to produce adequate amounts of hormones. The excessive stimulation causes an enlargement or swelling of thyroid gland around the neck area. The swelling also occurs when the thyroid is damaged by the Graves disease and iodine deficiency and other illnesses.
#3. Myxedema – this extreme, but rare form of hypothyroidism develops when onset hypothyroidism is left untreated for some time. Myxedema is serious and life-threatening due to its ability to slow metabolism and eventually give rise to a coma. Common symptoms of Myxedema like intolerance to cold and fatigue should be reported immediately to a doctor for quick intervention.
#4. Infertility – low levels of thyroid in the body can affect ovulation and reduce the chances of a woman conceiving. The condition is very difficult to treat even with proven interventions like thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Infertility also affects men since thyroid hormones regulate sex hormone metabolism, which controls sperm production. Men with hypothyroidism may also suffer abnormal sperm shape, Erectile Dysfunction (ED) and low levels of testosterone.
#5. Mental and nervous health issues – symptoms of hypothyroidism can cause mental anguish if not treated on time. The most pronounced effects include depression, nervous problems and gradual retraction of the mental faculties. Nerve injury problem can lead to hoarseness, speech impairment, breathing difficulties and pain in the upper and lower extremities. It is important to note that the link between hypothyroidism and depression is still being studied to unravel the full impact.
#6. Pregnancy complications – studies suggest that women with insufficient thyroid hormones can develop problems during pregnancy. The problems range from a high risk of miscarriage to complications like preterm birth. Women with hypothyroidism are strongly advised to consult a doctor when pregnant or when planning to get pregnant. After a thyroid test, the doctor may suggest thyroid medication or other forms of intervention capable of arresting the situation.
Hypothyroidism diagnosis and treatment
There is no known treatment for hypothyroidism, but the condition can easily be controlled. According to the American Thyroid Association, diagnosis for hypothyroidism depends on factors like symptoms, physician diagnosis, T4 test, THS test, blood testing and medical and family history. Depending on the assessment, doctors may suggest a replacement of the deficient hormone, which thyroid is unable to make in order to bring the TSH and T4 levels back to normal.
Every year, patients with chronic hypothyroidism are forced to pay a lot of money to control the disease. You can cover treatment if you have the right health insurance with benefits like outpatient care, ER visits and prescription drugs. The synthroid coupon card can help you cover the cost of medications and treatment since it offers savings of up to 80% off the cost of the prescription.