What is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism occurs when thyroid hormone levels are low. The condition is also known as ‘underactive thyroid’.

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

Many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are non-specific. Hypothyroidism may be present if you have the following

  • Excessive Tiredness/ Decreased Energy
  • Body aches/ Joint pains
  • Weight gain/ Facial puffiness
  • Irregular menstrual cycles/ Infertility
  • Constipation
  • Feeling cold
  • Dry skin/ Hair loss
  • Thyroid enlargement (Goitre)
  • If not diagnosed and treated early, hypothyroidism may result in a life threatening condition called Myxedema Coma.

Hypothyroidism is one of the causes of high cholesterol and may thus affect your heart and circulation.

Congenital Hypothyroidism (from birth), if untreated, will result in mental retardation and poor development in child.

In pregnancy, lack of thyroid hormones may result in abortion, poor fetal growth and mental ability of the child.

How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?

Hypothyroidism is usually diagnosed by blood tests. Your doctor will ask for TSH and T4. Usually TSH is elevated and T4 is low in hypothyroidism. Additional tests may be ordered by your doctor as needed.

What are the causes of Hypothyroidism?

Iodine deficiency is the major cause of hypothyroidism in the world. In iodine sufficient/supplemented areas of the world, like Kerala, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the commonest cause. In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the body produces an antibody which destroys own thyroid gland and decreases its function. Other causes of hypothyroidism could be medications, surgery and radioiodine therapy. Genetic causes resulting in absence or abnormal development of thyroid causes congenital hypothyroidism

How is Hypothyroidism treated?

Hypothyroidism is treated with levothyroxine, which is identical to the thyroxine (T4) produced in our body. Your doctor will decide the dose of thyroxine you need. It is best taken in an empty stomach. Your doctor will ask for repeat thyroid function testing to decide the correct dose of medication. In most cases, thyroxine replacement has to be continued for life.