March 30, 2021
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When your thyroid gland is underactive (called hypothyroidism) and produces too little hormone, your metabolism slows down and your organs’ ability to function normally is diminished. This may lead to a variety of symptoms, including weight gain, fatigue, depression, dry skin, brain fog, cold intolerance, muscle cramps, and constipation. Without treatment with thyroid hormone replacement, a goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland) may develop, as well as other complications like high cholesterol, nerve pain, anemia, and infertility.
It’s also worth noting that the symptoms of hypothyroidism are often non-specific, easily missed, or attributed to stress, aging, or some other cause. It is only by looking at symptoms in their totality that people (and their doctors) begin to suspect an underactive thyroid gland.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism tend to be mild or even unnoticeable when the disease develops gradually, but more dramatic when it develops rapidly. Moreover, the symptoms vary greatly from person to person; there is no single symptom that definitively clinches a diagnosis of hypothyroidism.
For instance, while weight gain is common in people with hypothyroidism, many people with an underactive thyroid are of normal weight or even thin.
Some of the major symptoms and signs that may manifest in hypothyroidism (as a result of a slowed metabolism) include:
Due to decreased blood flow, water retention, and slow processes (for example, hair regrowth), the following skin, hair, and nail changes are seen in hypothyroidism:
Another symptom commonly described in connection with hypothyroidism is “brain fog”. While this is not a medical term, per se, it has become a well-recognized description of a group of cognitive symptoms that are often used by patients and doctors alike. Brain fog may involve:
The reason brain fog may occur in hypothyroidism is because your brain requires sufficient levels of thyroid hormone in order to function properly.
Hypothyroidism may mimic the symptoms of depression. Fatigue, sleepiness, slowing of speech, in addition to a lack of interest in personal relationships and general apathy, are signs of depression and hypothyroidism.
People with hypothyroidism may also feel inexplicably anxious or irritable.
For some women with hypothyroidism, their first and perhaps the biggest clue is a history of menstrual and reproduction problems, including missed or frequent periods, heavy bleeding, recurrent miscarriage, repeated failure to conceive, or failed assistive reproduction treatments.
Over half of men with hypothyroidism experience decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, and delayed ejaculation.
Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
In a person with severe hypothyroidism, myxedema may occur. This skin condition involves the deposition of connective tissue components (mostly hyaluronic acid) in the lower layer of the skin, causing symptoms and signs like:
Myxedema coma: Rarely, a life-threatening condition, called myxedema coma may be triggered by trauma, infection, cold exposure, or certain medications. Myxedema coma causes a low body temperature and blood pressure, in addition to a loss of consciousness.
SYMPTOMS IN CHILDREN
The cause of hypothyroidism in children can either be congenital (meaning inherited from parents) or acquired (caused by other conditions such as Hashimoto’s disease, iodine deficiency, or radiation treatment).
The most common cause of congenital hypothyroidism is thyroid dysgenesis wherein the thyroid gland is either missing, deformed, or severely underdeveloped.
Most newborns with congenital hypothyroidism will have no signs of the disease.
Hashimoto’s disease (also known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) is, by far, the most common cause of hypothyroidism in children. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system malfunctions and launches an attack on healthy thyroid tissue.
Acquired hypothyroidism occurs in girls 4 times more often than in boys.
One of the characteristic signs is the swelling of the neck caused by the enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter).
A number of medical conditions may occur as a result of hypothyroidism, especially when untreated or uncontrolled.
Some people with hypothyroidism experience thyroid enlargement known as a goiter. Your goiter can range from slight enlargement, which may have no other symptoms, to a substantial increase in size that is symptomatic.
If you have a large goiter, you may feel swelling or general discomfort in the neck area. Scarves or ties may feel uncomfortable due to neck enlargement. In some cases, your neck and/or throat may be sore or tender.
Less commonly, swallowing or even breathing can become difficult if a goiter is blocking your windpipe or esophagus.
Hypothyroidism is known to cause a condition known as peripheral neuropathy, which causes abnormal localized sensations and pain such as:
Although the association between thyroid function and peripheral neuropathy isn’t fully understood, it is believed that hypothyroidism leads to fluid retention, resulting in swollen tissues.
One of the areas commonly affected by this fluid retention is the wrist, where nerves travel through a channel of soft tissue known as the carpal tunnel. When pressure is exerted in this area, it can result in carpal tunnel syndrome.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may begin with burning and tingling in the palm of the hand and fingers, especially the thumb, index finger, and middle finger.
This discomfort is often worse at night, causing a person to wake up in the morning feeling like they need to “wring their wrist out”.
If carpal tunnel progresses, hand muscles may waste away leading to weakness, particularly decreased grip strength.
A deficiency of thyroid hormone impairs the production of red blood cells in your bone marrow, the spongy tissue that lies in the center of certain bones. With this, anemia develops, causing symptoms like:
When the thyroid gland produces too little hormone, your body’s ability to process cholesterol becomes impaired. This can lead to elevated total cholesterol and LDL levels.
LDL cholesterol can build up in your arteries, eventually contributing to blockages that can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Besides high cholesterol, other heart-related complications associated with hypothyroidism include high blood pressure and fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion).
Myopathy (or muscle disease) may result from an underactive thyroid gland. People with hypothyroidism-induced myopathy often complain of muscle pain and stiffness, along with proximal muscle weakness that can make simple activities like rising from a chair, climbing stairs, or washing hair difficult.
Besides the fact that untreated hypothyroidism can lead to menstrual irregularities, which can lead to infertility, research suggests that hypothyroidism puts a pregnant woman at a higher risk for pregnancy loss, placental abruption, preterm delivery, and neonatal death.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
If you are worried that you or a loved one is experiencing one or more symptoms of hypothyroidism, call your doctor for an appointment. In addition to a medical history and physical examination, your doctor can perform a blood test called the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test, which can rule in or out a thyroid problem.
Seek medical attention right away if you are experiencing symptoms of myxedema coma, such as severe fatigue and/or extreme cold intolerance. Lastly, if you are considering pregnancy or are pregnant and taking thyroid hormone replacement medication, be sure to work with your doctor to ensure that your thyroid hormone level is optimized for the health of both you and your baby.
Source: Very Well Health
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