Hypothyroidism is the most common type of thyroid disorder. It means your thyroid
gland is not active enough. This tiny gland is found in the front of your neck. Its
job is to make thyroid hormone. If the gland is underactive, it may not make enough
Thyroid hormones control how your
body uses energy to do its work. These hormones affect almost every organ in your
When your thyroid doesn’t make enough of these hormones, parts of your body slow down.
The most common cause of
hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disorder. This means your immune system sees your
tissues as strange and starts to attack itself. It makes antibodies against the thyroid
gland. The normal thyroid cells are overrun by white blood cells and scar tissue.
Another cause may be treatment for an overactive thyroid gland. That may include
radioactive iodine therapy or surgery. Hypothyroidism may also develop shortly after
A condition called secondary hypothyroidism can also sometimes happen. It’s when your
pituitary gland stops working. The pituitary gland then no longer tells the thyroid
gland to make thyroid hormones.
Newborns are tested at birth for
hypothyroidism. This condition is called congenital hypothyroidism. It must be treated
right away. It can affect a baby’s brain and nervous system.
You may be more likely to have hypothyroidism if you:
- Are a woman
- Are older than age 60
- Have had thyroid problems or thyroid surgery in the past
- Have a family history of thyroid problems
- Have certain conditions, such as type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis
- Have Turner syndrome, a genetic condition that affects women
- Are pregnant or have had a baby within
the last 6 months
- Have an iodine deficiency. Your body needs iodine to make thyroid hormone.
Symptoms are different for each
person. They are often hard to notice and start slowly. They may be mistaken for
symptoms of depression. Here are the most common symptoms and signs:
- Dull facial expressions
- Tiredness and lack of energy
- Not being able to handle cold
- Hoarse voice
- Slow speech
- Droopy eyelids
- Puffy and swollen face
- Weight gain
- Sparse, coarse, and dry hair
- Coarse, dry, and thickened skin
- Hand tingling or pain (carpal tunnel
- Slow pulse
- Muscle cramps
- Joint pain
- Sides of eyebrows thin or fall
- Increased or irregular menstrual flow
These symptoms may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider
for a diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your past health. You will
also need a physical exam. Blood tests can also help diagnose hypothyroidism. They
measure the amount of thyroid hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormones in your blood.
Other blood tests can measure certain substances called antibodies that attack the
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It
will also depend on how severe the condition is.
The goal of treatment is to return your level of thyroid hormone back
to normal. You may need to take medicine that gives you a dose of thyroid hormones.
dose may need to be changed over time. You will likely need to take this medicine
the rest of your life. You will need follow-up blood tests to make sure you are taking
the correct dose of thyroid hormone replacement. Always check with your healthcare
provider before switching brands of medicine.
If your hypothyroidism is not treated, these complications may happen:
- Low body temperature
- Heart failure
- High (elevated) cholesterol levels
Tell your healthcare provider if your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms.
If you are a woman of childbearing age and want to become pregnant, talk with your
healthcare provider first.
- Hypothyroidism means your thyroid
gland is underactive. It isn’t making enough thyroid hormone. The most common cause
is when your immune system starts to attack itself.
- Symptoms include dull facial expressions, tiredness, and weight gain.
- Blood tests help to diagnose this
condition. They can measure the amount of thyroid hormone, thyroid-stimulating
hormone, and antibodies that attack your thyroid.
- The goal of treatment is to return your levels of thyroid hormone back to normal.
- Untreated hypothyroidism may lead to anemia, low body temperature, and heart failure.
- Treatment may include medicine that
replaces lost thyroid hormones. You may need to take thyroid hormones for the rest
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
- Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells
- At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments,
or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
- Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also
know what the side effects are.
- Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
- Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that