What Is Hypothyroidism and What Are the Symptoms?
If you are effected by hypothyroidism, it can greatly change how you live out your day-to-day life. Whether it be physical changes in your appearance or increased fatigue, hypothyroidism can be diminishing your quality of life, but there are ways to fix it.
What Is Hypothyroidism and What Are the Symptoms?
If you've ever felt so tired you couldn't take one more step, discover that your hair is thinning and you are gaining weight, you may be experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism. If you've ever had trouble forming complete sentences, and difficulty remembering people's names who you just met, or if you struggle with constipation and difficulty staying warm in cold environments, you definitely want to have your thyroid tested for hypothyroidism.
Hypo (meaning "low") thyroid (a hormone-producing gland in your neck) is a very serious condition. Luckily, the symptoms of hypothyroidism are 100% treatable. Most common in middle-age and elderly females, hypothyroidism can affect anyone, including males, teenagers, and even infants.
Many people with hypothyroidism report sluggish moving bowels, constipation, dry skin, inability to keep warm in cold temperatures, extreme fatigue, memory problems, mental sluggishness, and overarching malaise. These are some of the early-onset symptoms that can indicate you may be having a problem with hypothyroidism.
Here's a complete list of symptoms of hypothyroidism:
• Increased sensitivity to cold environments
• Dry skin
• Weight gain
• Thinning hair
• Facial puffiness
• Muscle weakness
• Elevated cholesterol levels
• Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
• Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
• Irregular menstrual periods in women
• Slower heart rate
• Impaired memory
If you or someone you care about are having these sorts of symptoms, a simple blood test performed by a physician can indicate whether or not you have hypothyroidism.
An easy, non-fasting, blood test that reveals high TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is the primary diagnostic criteria for hypothyroidism.
A normal TSH range is between 0.5 and 4.0 mIU/L. If your level is higher than this, then your physician will likely look further into a diagnosis of hypothyroidism.
High TSH Level = Low Thyroid Function
TSH is a hormone that stimulates your thyroid gland to produce plenty of thyroid hormone. When the body is producing lots of TSH, it's telling your thyroid gland to "work harder" because there is not enough thyroid hormone available for cells to use. TSH is essentially your body's way of pressing the gas pedal, asking your thyroid gland to 'go faster' with producing thyroid hormone.
And as you may have already guessed, hypothyroidism happens when the body is pressing the gas pedal, but the thyroid hormone you need is not being created in the amounts required by the body for normal energy production.
Thyroid hormone is an energy-producing hormone because it signals the mitochondria within our cells to produce energy. Mitochondria are small capsules within body cells which responsible for the all-important job of producing energy molecules that can be used by cells and muscles.
When you have hypothyroidism, even simple tasks can cause fatigue, such as grocery shopping or walking the dog, because muscle cells are not able to produce enough energy to sustain even moderate activity.
One woman's story reveals that she would go out to exercise, and come inside to curl up and fall asleep right afterward. Once she discovered she had hypothyroidism, she began taking medication that provided active thyroid hormone, and it was as if a whole new world had opened up to her. "I didn't feel so dreadfully tired any longer. I had energy to do the normal, everyday things I'd always done without getting tired."
Most people notice a nearly-immediate difference in how they feel once they start medication for this condition. Treatment for hypothyroidism drastically improves the symptoms associated with hypothyroidism. Most people report that they begin to feel completely back to normal within a month.
The difference in quality of life is noticeable not only to the individual with hypothyroidism, but also to friends and families who know the individual well.
What Causes Hypothyroidism?
There are different types of hypothyroidism, and each one arises under varying circumstances in the body. For example, Hashimoto's thyroid disease - the most form of hypothyroidism - is an autoimmune disease, which means you body's immune system creates antibodies that attack the thyroid gland.
Other, less common causes of hypothyroidism arise from a genetic disease, such as birth defect that keeps the thyroid gland from developing properly. Pregnancy can lead to the development of hypothyroidism, for the same reason as Hashimoto's thyroid disease, autoimmune cells attack the thyroid gland and reduce its ability to produce thyroid hormone. Other causes of hypothyroidism include disorders of the pituitary gland - usually related to a tumor located near the pituitary gland, within the brain tissue.
Although highly uncommon in the United States, where most salt is iodized, hypothyroidism can be related to a deficiency in iodine. Iodine is crucial for the synthesis of thyroid hormone. Alternatively, consuming too much iodine in the form of iodized salt or from seafood and seaweed products, can cause hypothyroidism. Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to autoimmune diseases, specifically autoimmune forms such as Hashimoto's thyroid disease.