What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
How serious is hypothyroidism?
If your test results show that you have hypothyroidism, do you have any reason to worry?
If you are searching for the answers to these questions, then you have come to the right place.
Illnesses can be scary- If it happens to your loved ones.
If it happens to you, you shrug, take it with a pinch of salt and go on as if nothing has changed. Even the smallest of cold becomes a matter of top priority, if it is your child or husband who is affected. You don’t give the same importance to your own body.
But that is what needs to change.
Any illness/condition/disorder has to be dealt with the all the seriousness it deserves. Now, the best we can do to help you in your endeavor to change the way you look at your health, is to create awareness.
Today’s post is about hypothyroidism, one of the most common diseases of the endocrine system. I will try my best to explain and dispel the doubts you may have, regarding this condition.
What is hypothyroidism?
As the name suggests, it is a disease that concerns the Thyroid gland.
The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland which is located at the neck. It produces two hormones- T3 (Triiodothyronine) and T4 (Thyroxine).
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormone. Due to the role the thyroid gland has in our body, the reduced level of hormone levels can cause a lot of ill –effects in our body and the body’s metabolism takes a bad hit.
Fortunately, hypothyroidism can be detected with some simple blood tests.
Causes of hypothyroidism
Now that you know what hypothyroidism is, let us take a look at the reasons that lead to the ‘little butterfly’ not producing enough hormones and ultimately lead to this disorder.
The major causes of hypothyroidism are:
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis-
Also called auto-immune thyroiditis, it is a condition triggered by the body’s own immune system that causes inflammation of the thyroid gland. This has garnered some awareness as Hollywood actor Zoe Saldana was diagnosed with this.
In people with Hashimoto’s, the immune system thinks of the thyroid as a threat to the body. This in turn causes the thyroid to secrete less hormones, leading to hypothyroidism.
- Surgeries to the thyroid gland-
Any surgery of the thyroid gland can also be a cause of hypothyroidism. At times, there are still enough cells in the remaining gland that helps to produce enough hormone without causing any hitches in the body after these surgeries. But sometimes it is not enough and leads to hypothyroidism.
- Radiation treatments
Radiation treatments to the head and neck can also lead to hypothyroidism. This is because the radiation can affect the thyroid gland. This is turn leads to lesser or no production of hormones.
- Problems with the pituitary gland
Issues in the pituitary gland can cause it to produce less or no Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. And if there is no TSH, then the thyroid wouldn’t know that it needs to make its hormones as the Thyroid stimulating hormone tells the thyroid gland to make the hormone. This type of hypothyroidism is called the secondary hypothyroidism.
- Problems with the hypothalamus
Yet another reason why hypothyroidism occurs is because at times the hypothalamus does not produce enough TRH (Thyrotropin Releasing Hormone). The TRH tells the pituitary gland to produce TSH. This causes tertiary hypothyroidism.
Certain medicines can cause this disorder. Medicines for treating hyperthyroidism can also be a cause of hypothyroidism. If you notice these symptoms and decide to consult a doctor then ensure that you inform your doctor about all the medications that you have been taking. This way he will know if a change of medication will bring about a change in your condition. If you do not tell your doctor about the medications, then it may also interfere with the treatment.
- Low iodine diet
In school you have heard of how important iodine is for the body. Iodine is required by the body in the production of thyroid hormones. Apart from using iodized salt, you can also consume dairy products, eggs, seafood like shellfish and saltwater fish to ensure that your body gets enough iodine.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism
If you are one of the few who gets annual health checkups done then, you would know if you are suffering from hypothyroidism once you get the results. Now if you aren’t so motivated to get routine health checkups done, then either start doing it soon or keep an eye out for anything unusual. We will now look at the list of hypothyroid symptoms or the common warning signs that your body will send out, if you have hypothyroidism. If you see them, do not hesitate to visit your doctor and share your concerns so that they can do the tests and determine if you have it.
#1. Unexpected weight gain:
Some people complain of a sudden weight gain despite no change in their lifestyle. This could be an indication of hypothyroidism, as it the lower hormone levels can cause a significant drop in metabolism causing you to gain weight. Before you blame any increase in weight on hypothyroidism, think long and hard – has your daily intake of calories increased? If yes, have you been working out? If you answered no, then chances are that it isn’t hypothyroidism.
You may wonder, aren’t all moms fatigued? But in some cases fatigue shouldn’t be taken lightly as it could be a sign of hypothyroidism.
The lower hormones, due to the thyroid gland’s underactivity leads to slowing down of your body’s functions and it leads to low energy levels. This means you feel tired all the time, despite having eaten and slept properly. So if you have been eating a well-balanced diet and have been getting enough sleep and yet feel zapped, then check if your hormone levels are fine. The fatigue could be your body’s way of saying that things aren’t too good.
#3. Drying of skin:
The thyroid hormone is responsible for keeping your skin healthy and supple. So if your skin suddenly looks dry and parched despite it not being winter, then you may need to worry. Don’t forget to rule out the use of any new products on the skin. Ensure that this sudden change in the skin is not due to a reaction to any new product that you have tried.
If you have dry skin naturally, then keep calm and slather some moisturizer.
#4. Thinning of hair
Low thyroid levels also take a toll on your hair. It can cause hair fall. Again here you have to rule the play of any external factors. You should make sure that there hasn’t been any change of oil, water, hair product or treatment that has led to the hair fall. If you are sure that it is not the case and you see other symptoms mentioned in this list then schedule a trip to the doctor.
#5. Sudden change in menstrual cycle:
Hypothyroidism can cause the cycle to be longer or shorter than usual, with heavier bleeding. So make sure you keep an eye on any changes in your cycle.
One of the effects of hypothyroidism in women is infertility, but with treatment there is a good chance of conception. After conception, your doctor may give you medication to ensure that your hormone levels are optimal for you and your baby. So even if you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism and are planning to have a child, with the right medication, you can conceive.
#7. High cholesterol levels:
Elevated cholesterol levels due to hypothyroidism occurs due to the pituitary gland secreting higher amounts of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). Reduced thyroid levels can also cause a higher heart rate.
#8. Digestive issues
As mentioned earlier, thyroid hormones regulate the metabolism in our body. If the hormone levels are lower, then it leads to poor digestion. Apart from this, it also leads to constipation quite often.
#9. Puffy face
A puffy face could also be an indication of reduced thyroid hormone levels. This is because the low hormone levels aid water retention.
#10. Muscle aches
Hypothyroidism can cause muscle aches. Apart from that it can also cause tenderness, stiffness and overall weakness of the muscles.
#11. Joint pain
Yet another symptom of hypothyroidism is joint pain and swelling. As if the muscle aches and the weakness of the muscles weren’t bad enough!
#12. Sensitivity to cold
Do you feel cold compared to others around you? It could be because the thyroid gland isn’t working the way it should. The thyroid gland is responsible for regulating the body’s temperature. When the thyroid secretes lesser hormones then it leads to you feeling cold, even when others aren’t.
#13. The voice becomes hoarse
When your voice suddenly turns hoarse without any reason, it could be your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong.
I would like to reiterate that losing your voice after screaming at your kids is not an indication that you have hypothyroidism.
#14. Depression & memory loss
Apart from the above mentioned signs and symptoms, lower thyroid hormone in your body can also lead to depression and impaired memory. Forgetfulness is usually associated with growing old is often shrugged off, but if you are becoming forgetful or feel depressed, there is no harm is taking the test.
Almost all possible symptoms of hypothyroidism have been listed here. If I have missed out any, do let me know.
If you have hypothyroidism and don’t treat it, either because you don’t think it isn’t too tough to deal with or even because you are completely unaware of its existence then you better watch out. Untreated hypothyroidism can cause-
- Heart issues
- Nerve damage (especially in the extremities)
- Muscle damage
- Infertility/ miscarriage
- Birth defects (In babies born to moms with untreated hypothyroidism)
If no treatment is provided, then hypothyroidism can also lead to myxedema. Myxedema coma is the extreme form of hypothyroidism. It is extremely rare and can occur when the levels of the thyroid hormone are really low. It can also be caused by certain infections and certain medications in people with untreated hypothyroidism.
Signs of myxedema coma are:
- Low body temperature
- Low Blood pressure & sugar
- Slow breathing
- Does not respond
- Behavioral changes
Can you exercise if you have hypothyroidism?
Of course you can and you should!
Exercise helps in keeping the heart healthy and the muscles strong. However, you should choose exercises that don’t have a strong impact on the joints. As I said earlier hypothyroidism can cause stiffness and swelling of the joints.
So be careful in choosing the type of exercise. You can try walking, running, swimming, yoga etc.
- 5 Easy asanas that you can try this yoga day
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- 6 Benefits of swimming which makes it your ideal workout
Don’t forget to check with your doctor before you start any exercise. This way he or she can advise of you on how much you can push your body.
If you notice, most of the symptoms may be shrugged off as an occupational hazard of being a mom. Hoarse voice, fatigue, aching body, sudden weight gain – sounds a bit too familiar right?
I am sure most of you are pretty convinced or fear that you may have hypothyroidism by now after reading these symptoms. But if it gets you to the doctor for a checkup, then great! There is no harm doing that once in a year.
Jokes apart, hypothyroidism is no laughing matter and hence if you see any of the symptoms mentioned above, do consult your doctor. Nowadays there are medications that will help you manage your hypothyroidism. This way you can continue being the rock of your family and take care of them.
Dear mommas, hope this has answered your queries about hypothyroidism. If you have any queries or comments, do share it with us in the comments.