What is Hypothyroidism?

what is hypothyroidism

Being a thyroid hormone disorder, underactive thyroid glands lead to hypothyroidism. In people who have hypothyroidism, the thyroid glands do not produce enough thyroid hormones resulting in a wide range of symptoms including weight gain, depression, and dry skin.

Though hypothyroidism manifests in the form of various symptoms, it is one of the most underdiagnosed conditions. As thyroid glands become underactive over a period of time, the first manifestation of this condition comes in the form of a lack of physical and mental capabilities. Since lethargy, fatigue, and brain fog can be attributed to many other conditions, the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism are generally nonspecific and subtle.

Hypothyroidism – Quick facts

  1. Hypothyroidism is not curable and has to be managed lifelong.
  2. Women are more likely to have hypothyroidism than men.
  3. People with diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, and asthma are more likely to have hypothyroidism.
  4. Hypothyroidism can affect children too and this condition is known as congenital hypothyroidism.
  5. People with a family history of hypothyroidism are more likely to get hypothyroidism.
  6. Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to serious ailments like cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and even infertility.
  7. Women are prone to thyroid hormone imbalances during pregnancy, and before menopause.
  8. People with a diet deficit of iodine are prone to get hypothyroidism and this condition is called iodine deficiency hypothyroidism.
  9. Certain medications like lithium carbonate, amiodarone, and interferon are known to cause hypothyroidism.
  10. Disorders of the pituitary glands and the hypothalamus can also lead to hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism in India

Thyroid disorders are common among many countries, and India has a very high prevalence of various thyroid disorders. A conservative estimate says that there are more than 42 million people with thyroid diseases. Among them, hypothyroidism is one of the most common thyroid ailment. Though it is a common endocrine disorder, hypothyroidism is little understood considering that even children can be affected by this.

Risk factors for hypothyroidism

  • Age, gender
  • Down’s syndrome or Turner’s syndrome
  • Family history of hypothyroidism
  • Autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes
  • Taking treatment for hyperthyroidism or thyroid cancer
  • People who underwent thyroid surgery

Symptoms of hypothyroidism

  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Brain fog and memory loss
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Changed menstrual cycles
  • Muscle cramps
  • Depression
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss
  • High cholesterol levels

Every person with hypothyroidism might not experience all the symptoms. Many people might not be aware of the symptoms as they experience a progressive slowing down of their thyroid function. This is because of a condition called subclinical hypothyroidism. In this condition, the levels of TSH are higher but the levels of free thyroxine are normal. This is an early stage of hypothyroidism.

Next: Causes and diagnostic tests for hypothyroidism