What Is Underactive Thyroid?

An underactive thyroid, also called hypothyroidism, occurs when the thyroid gland fails to release enough of T4 or thyroxine hormone in the body. This generally happens when the immune system of the body attacks the thyroid gland, damages it and reduces its ability to produce optimal amount of thyroxine hormone. Both men, women and even children can have an underactive thyroid, although it's more common in women. The only accurate way of determining whether one has a thyroid problem or not is through a thyroid function test where a blood sample of the individual is tested to measure their hormone levels. A person must seek immediate medical attention when experiencing the symptoms of an underactive thyroid. An underactive thyroid can often be successfully treated with hormone tablets that help to make up for the deficit of thyroxine.

Hypothyroidism usually occurs when the immune system, which generally fights infection, attacks the thyroid gland and damages it in due course. The damaged thyroid gland loses its ability to produce enough hormone thyroxine and thereby triggers the development of the underactive thyroid symptoms. Auto immune disorders like Hashimoto's disease, vitiligo and type 1 diabetes also cause an underactive thyroid. Underactive thyroid symptoms can also be a result of adverse effects or complications of previous thyroid gland treatments like surgery or radioactive iodine therapy. Iodine promotes the production of thyroxine and deficiency of dietary iodine can also result in hypothyroidism.

Some newborns have an underactive thyroid since their thyroid gland fails to develop properly in the womb. This is called congenital hypothyroidism. A problem or damage to the pituitary gland could even lead to thyroid problem and result in underactive thyroid symptoms. Some viral infections or certain medications used to treat other health conditions like cancer, hepatitis C, bipolar disorder, arrhythmias, depression, etc., are also known to cause hypothyroidism.

Underactive Thyroid Symptoms: What Happens If You Have an Underactive Thyroid?

Underactive thyroid symptoms develop slowly and one may not even realize it for many years. Since many of these symptoms are found in some other medical conditions too, it is extremely difficult to identify underactive thyroid accurately. When you know what happens if you have an underactive thyroid, it will help in every way.

The commonest underactive thyroid symptoms are weight gain, depression, constipation, fatigue, muscular pain and weakness, cramping and increased sensitivity to cold. Irregular periods, loss of libido, dermal dryness, brittle nails and hair, decreased mobility, weak cognitive ability and carpal tunnel syndrome are some other symptoms of an underactive thyroid. Similar underactive thyroid symptoms may be seen in children too, in addition to a few. Children suffering from underactive thyroid can experience slower growth and development and in teenagers having underactive thyroid, puberty can start earlier than normal.

If underactive thyroid symptoms persist and the problem remains untreated for long, it can later be accompanied by symptoms like facial puffiness, hoarse or low pitched voice, anemia, loss of hearing, partially missing or thinned eyebrows and slower heart rate.

How Can Underactive Thyroid Be Treated?

The type of treatment and the severity of underactive thyroid symptoms. An underactive thyroid can be treated by taking hormone replacement tablets, as advised by the treating physician. These tablets help to raise thyroxine levels in the body and must be taken by the patient for the rest of their life. This will help to ensure that the patient lives a normal, healthy and long life.

What Complications Can Occur With Underactive Thyroid?

If left untreated, underactive thyroid can give rise to complications like high cholesterol and blood pressure, chest pain and circulatory problems. Cardiac problems, goiter, hypothermia and myxedema coma are other health problems which a hypothyroidism patient can encounter. Untreated underactive thyroid during pregnancy can increase the risk of birth defect, miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, developmental issues, etc. All these complications can be avoided if timely treatment is given as advised by the specialist.

Final Take

Now you are aware of what happens if you have an underactive thyroid, so you can be alert. There is no known way of preventing an underactive thyroid, but with accurate diagnosis and timely treatments this illness can be managed effectively. By eating a balanced diet, following a healthy lifestyle, taking daily medications and engaging in a regular exercise regime, one can easily maintain optimal thyroid levels in their body. Knowing the underactive thyroid symptoms is important, which if present, you can seek medical opinion for timely diagnosis and treatment.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: November 29, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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