Despite its tiny size, our thyroid gland can have a major impact on our health and well-being. The thyroid gland produces hormones that help keep our metabolism steady and regulate the different substances that make up our blood. When our thyroid gland does not make enough of these hormones, it can cause hypothyroidism.
Overview of Hypothyroidism
Often a result of the immune system attacking itself, hypothyroidism makes antibodies that fight against the thyroid gland, stemming hormone production. There is nothing you can do to prevent hypothyroidism, it can impact both adults and children. Women, especially those who have recently given birth or who have Turner syndrome, and individuals over 60 are more likely to develop hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism can be tricky to diagnose as many of the symptoms resemble other conditions, including depression. Symptoms vary according to each individual, but common indications include:
- Dull facial expressions
- Tiredness (fatigue)
- Sensitivity to cold temperatures
- 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 syndrome)
- Slow pulse
- Muscle cramps
- Thinning eyebrows
- Increased or irregular menstrual flow in women
If someone is suffering from these conditions, a primary care physician or endocrinologist may take a blood test to measure the amount of thyroid hormone in the blood.
Treatment for hypothyroidism focuses on helping the body to produce the thyroid hormones. Medication can help, and a doctor may adjust medication over the years depending on how much a thyroid gland is producing on its own. Although the dosage of medication may change, those suffering from hypothyroidism should expect to take thyroid medication the rest of their lives.
If left untreated, hypothyroidism can cause additional complications including anemia (lack of iron in your blood), low body temperature, and even heart failure.
Some children may be born with a form of hypothyroidism called congenital hypothyroidism (CH). Left undiagnosed and untreated, CH can cause intellectual disabilities and stunt development. Newborns are screened upon birth and about one in every 4,000 babies is diagnosed.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism in children are different than in adults, and include jaundice, a hoarse cry, slow tooth and bone growth, and a poor appetite.
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