The balance of chemical reactions in your body can get upset when your thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones. Thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland situated just below your Adam’s apple in the throat. It produces triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) hormones that affect all aspects of your metabolism. The rate at which your body uses fat and carbohydrates is maintained by these hormones. They also help control your body temperature, influence your heart rate and help regulate the production of proteins.
Hypothyroidism results when the thyroid gland fails to produce enough hormones. It may happen due to a number of factors, including:
A particular inflammatory disorder known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Autoimmune disorders occur when your immune system produces antibodies that attack your own tissues. Sometimes this process involves your thyroid gland. The reason behind why the body produces antibodies against itself is still unknown to scientists. While some think a virus or bacterium might be triggering it, others suspect a genetic flaw. However it happens, these antibodies affect the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones.
The state where a person produces too much thyroid hormone is known as hyperthyroidism. It is often treated with radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications to reduce and normalize the thyroid function. In some cases, this treatment can result in permanent hypothyroidism.
Removing all or a large portion of your thyroid gland can diminish or halt hormone production. In that case, you'll need to take thyroid hormone for life.
The radiation that is used to treat cancers of the head and neck can also affect your thyroid gland and may lead to hypothyroidism.
Medications such as lithium, which is used to treat certain psychiatric disorders, can contribute to hypothyroidism. If you're taking any medication, ask your doctor about its effect on your thyroid gland.
Often, infants are born with a defective thyroid gland or no thyroid gland. In most cases, the thyroid gland didn't develop normally for unknown reasons, but some children have an inherited form of the disorder. A newborn thyroid screening is required in such cases because often infants with congenital thyroidism appear normal at birth.
Some women develop hypothyroidism during or after pregnancy (postpartum hypothyroidism), often because they produce antibodies to their own thyroid gland. Left untreated, hypothyroidism increases the risk of miscarriage, premature delivery and preeclampsia — a condition that causes a significant rise in a woman's blood pressure during the last three months of pregnancy. It can also seriously affect the developing fetus.
The severity of the hormone deficiency decides the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism. But whatever problems you have, tend to develop slowly, often over a number of years. These symptoms are barely noticeable at first, such as fatigue and weight gain. But as your metabolism continues to slow, more obvious signs and symptoms may vary. They may include:
If left untreated, symptoms can gradually become more severe. Constant stimulation of your thyroid gland to release more hormones may lead to an enlarged thyroid (goiter). In addition, you may become more forgetful, your thought processes may slow, or you may feel depressed.
Advanced hypothyroidism, known as myxedema, is rare, but when it occurs it can be life-threatening. Signs and symptoms include low blood pressure, decreased breathing, decreased body temperature, unresponsiveness and even coma. In extreme cases, myxedema can be fatal.
Recommendations taken from Mayo Clinic.
Read more articles on Thyroid.