Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland, a butterfly shaped gland located in the neck, does not produce sufficient amounts of the thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism is a relatively common medical problem, affecting an estimated 10 million Americans. When your body lacks this hormone, it affects your entire body. The thyroid is responsible for your metabolism, and it can create a wide array of symptoms, including lethargy, weight gain, constipation, dry skin, cold intolerance, memory loss, hair loss, depression and loss of libido. In advanced cases of hypothyroidism, the face and eyelids may become swollen and the heart can become enlarged.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Watch for symptoms which may be indicative of a thyroid disorder. Inappropriate weight gain and a gradual intolerance for cold may become noticeable. You may notice that your hair has become brittle, or is falling out and that your skin is rough and dry. Some people may develop symptoms of depression or become irritable. Women may notice that their menstrual periods become irregular.
Write down your symptoms so that you can easily list and explain them to your physician. Make sure that you let your physician know how long you have experienced the symptoms.
Prepare to undergo diagnostic tests to determine if your thyroid is underactive. A general physician may refer you to an endocrinologist for specialized testing. Blood work is typically completed in order to confirm a diagnosis. Your thyroid stimulating hormone level will be tested, and sometimes the T-3 and T-4 levels may be tested in comparison to your TSH level in order to diagnose a condition known as sub-clinical hypothyroidism.
Plan to start taking synthetic hormones to replace the deficient thyroid hormones. You will have to work closely with your physician to determine the correct amount of hormone replacement necessary. Your blood levels will have to be monitored annually and there may be adjustments each year to keep the hormone amounts at an optimal level.
Take your prescribed medication exactly as your physician instructs you to. Failure to take the medication at the right time, or in the correct amounts, can cause long-term, adverse problems to develop, especially to your heart.
Observe your symptoms go away with the proper dosage of synthetic hormone. You should no longer be experiencing the symptoms that led you to seek professional advice when the correct dosage of medication is taken. If you notice that symptoms do not improve, or if they worsen, it is important to contact your doctor and have your blood work checked again.
Hypothyroidism can be difficult to diagnose. If you feel that your general physician is not addressing your concerns, you should consider making an appointment with an endocrinologist.
Do not ignore the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Failure to treat hypothyroidism can endanger your heart.