Article submitted by Jennifer Van Egdom
B.A. Biology with a minor in Education - Hamline University, St. Paul, MN
WHAT CAUSES HYPOTHYROIDISM?
Hypothyroidism is caused by the under-activity of your thyroid glands located on each side of your neck. The thyroid glands, directed by the pituitary gland in your brain, make small amounts of hormones that control how your body uses energy. With hypothyroidism, blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tone and digestion are all affected as a result of the lower level of hormones secreted from the glands.
SYMPTOMS OF HYPOTHYROIDISM
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include feeling tired and worn out, weight gain, constipation, hair loss, thickening of the skin, mood swings, and an extreme sensitivity to heat and cold. Women may have heavy and prolonged menstrual periods, and both women and men may lose interest in sex. The majority of people who have hypothyroidism do not even know that they have it – they attribute the signs and symptoms to aging. Depression closely resembles many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
If you notice that you have more than one symptom listed above that is happening at the same time, make an appointment with your doctor.
WHO GETS HYPOTHYROIDISM?
Hypothyroidism is a common disease and usually affects mostly women of all ages. Some causes of the disease are known. People treated for an overactive thyroid can get hypothyroidism. It can occur as part of the course of Hashimoto’s Disease (http://www.drstandley.com/hth_hashimotos_disease.shtml), an autoimmune disease where your own immune systems attacks the thyroid glands. Hormone drugs, including androgens and anabolic steroids can also cause hypothyroidism. And although very rare, babies can be born with thyroid glands that do not work properly. Hypothyroidism can also occur for no apparent reason at all.
HOW IS HYPOTHYROIDISM TREATED?
A simple blood test from your doctor will determine if your level of thyroid hormones are low or in the normal range. Treatment of hypothyroidism means taking thyroid medicine each day that is prescribed by your doctor. Your doctor will most likely require that you get periodic blood tests (every six months or so) to monitor your thyroid hormone levels. Most people with hypothyroidism stay on the medication for the rest of their lives. In some cases, the thyroid glands return back to their normal function if the cause can be determined.
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