Hypothyroidism

Aired:
Season 16
Episode 1609

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It is estimated that 20 million people in the U.S. have thyroid disease and 12% of Americans will develop a thyroid condition in their lifetime. Thyroid disease can be life altering and debilitating, especially when left untreated.

Source: Mayo Clinic

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of certain crucial hormones.

Hypothyroidism may not cause noticeable symptoms in the early stages. Over time, untreated hypothyroidism can cause a number of health problems, such as obesity, joint pain, infertility and heart disease.

Accurate thyroid function tests are available to diagnose hypothyroidism. Treatment with synthetic thyroid hormone is usually simple, safe and effective once you and your doctor find the right dose for you.

Thyroid gland

The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism vary, depending on the severity of the hormone deficiency. Problems tend to develop slowly, often over a number of years.

At first, you may barely notice the symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as fatigue and weight gain. Or you may simply attribute them to getting older. But as your metabolism continues to slow, you may develop more-obvious problems.

Hypothyroidism signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
  • Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
  • Thinning hair
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory
  • Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)

Hypothyroidism in infants

Although hypothyroidism most often affects middle-aged and older women, anyone can develop the condition, including infants. Initially, babies born without a thyroid gland or with a gland that doesn’t work properly may have few signs and symptoms. When newborns do have problems with hypothyroidism, the problems may include:

  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice). In most cases, this occurs when a baby’s liver can’t metabolize a substance called bilirubin, which normally forms when the body recycles old or damaged red blood cells.
  • A large, protruding tongue.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Hoarse crying.
  • An umbilical hernia.

As the disease progresses, infants are likely to have trouble feeding and may fail to grow and develop normally. They may also have:

  • Constipation
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Excessive sleepiness

When hypothyroidism in infants isn’t treated, even mild cases can lead to severe physical and mental retardation.

Hypothyroidism in children and teens

In general, children and teens who develop hypothyroidism have the same signs and symptoms as adults do, but they may also experience:

  • Poor growth, resulting in short stature
  • Delayed development of permanent teeth
  • Delayed puberty
  • Poor mental development

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you’re feeling tired for no reason or have any of the other signs or symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as dry skin, a pale, puffy face, constipation or a hoarse voice.

If you’re receiving hormone therapy for hypothyroidism, schedule follow-up visits as often as your doctor recommends. Initially, it’s important to make sure you’re receiving the correct dose of medicine. And over time, the dose you need may change.

Medline Plus

Conduct an off-site search from MedlinePlus.  These up-to-date search results are based on search terms specific to Second Opinion.

Resources

Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to clinical practice, education and research, providing expert, whole-person care to everyone who needs healing.
American Thyroid Association
The American Thyroid Association® (ATA) is a unique society providing services to the public far beyond its membership numbers. Its 1,700 physician and scientist members from 43 countries around the world have a wealth of expertise and are mission-driven to make the world a better place for patients suffering with thyroid disease and thyroid cancer.
National Association of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
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