Hypothyroidism is sometimes referred to as an underactive thyroid and is defined as a lack of thyroid hormone.
Hypothyroidism develops when your thyroid gland does not produce enough of the hormone required for your body and its organs to function normally. A lack of thyroid hormone affects every system in your body and can cause many serious and bothersome health problems. The influence of the thyroid is important, as it affects your heart rate, cholesterol levels, body weight, energy level, muscle strength, the condition of your skin, vision, menstrual regularity, mental state and a host of other conditions.
Who is at Risk?
Low thyroid conditions are near epidemic today, especially among women. Blood tests often fail to detect hypothyroidism, even in extremely severe cases. According to a new study by the University of Colorado, an estimated 13 million Americans may have undiagnosed thyroid problems. Research shows hypothyroidism now exists in as much as 70% of the U.S. population.
In adults, untreated hypothyroidism can cause several complications, including fluid around the heart and an increase in the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides (increasing the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke). Severe hypothyroidism can cause a life-threatening condition called myxedema coma.
Some women develop hypothyroidism during or after pregnancy. Hypothyroidism that developed before pregnancy may become worse during pregnancy.
What are the Causes of Hypothyroidism?
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Other common causes may include:
- Radioactive iodine therapy
- Surgical removal of the thyroid gland
- Too little or too much iodine in the diet
- Viral and bacterial infections of the thyroid gland.
- Problems in the pituitary gland or the hypothalamus, the two areas of the brain that produce hormones.
- Genetic hypothyroidism (present from birth).
Certain medications may be the cause, including
- Adrenal steroids like prednisone and hydrocortisone, which treat inflammation
- Amiodarone, a heart drug
- Antithyroid drugs like propylthiouricil and methimazole
- Lithium, for psychiatric treatment
- Propranolol, a beta blocker
What are Some of the Symptoms you May be Experiencing?
In adults, symptoms usually develop over time and are often simply mistaken for signs of aging. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism can occur throughout your body and may include:
- Feeling tired, sluggish, or weak.
- Memory problems, depression, and difficulty concentrating.
- H air thinning or falling out.
- Brittle cracking nails. Dry skin.
- A pale or yellowish tone to the skin.
- Slowed body movement, slow or slurred speech.
- Heavy or sometimes irregular menstrual periods that may last longer than 5 to 8 days.
- Difficulty keeping warm or an inability to tolerate cold.
- Frequently experiencing constipation.
Other, symptoms may include an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), gradual weight gain, a deep or hoarse voice, muscle aching and cramps, and swelling of your legs, arms hands or feet.
How is Hypothyroidism Diagnosed?
If your health professional suspects you may have hypothyroidism; you may need blood tests to determine your thyroid hormone levels. If you have no or mild symptoms of hypothyroidism and blood tests show slightly abnormal levels of thyroid hormone, you may have mild (subclinical) hypothyroidism.
What are the Treatment Options for Hypothyroidism?
- Prescription Thyroid Hormone Medications- The most common treatment for hypothyroidism is prescription thyroid hormone medication. These type medications are intended to replace the T4 hormone, which the body naturally produces. Not everyone responds well to prescription treatments. Many physicians point to the lack of T3 in such medicines as the cause for their failure to relieve symptoms in a large number of persons with hypothyroidism. Because of this, a growing number of individuals within the medical community now support the use of natural or alternative therapies for hypothyroidism support.
- Natural Nutritional Thyroid Support – The thyroid requires specific nutritional support for optimal health and function. Proper thyroid function requires adequate amounts of B-vitamin compounds, zinc, iodine, and copper, manganese and molybdenum, the amino acid; L-tyrosine is also required for the production of the neurotransmitters associated with normal hormone production.In addition to the above vitamins and minerals, specific herbs can also help improve the function of the thyroid gland and overall glandular system along with providing a rich source of natural substances known to be excellent for thyroid health.