Hypothyrodism is a very common disorder affecting mostly women, but men could also be affected by it. It results from the under production of thyroxine, a hormone that primarily regulates the metabolism of the body and also responsible for the proper functioning of other hormones in the body.
The common reason for Hypothyrodism is under activity of the gland. Other causes include neck surgery certain medications and prior exposure to radiation.
Depending on the degree of severeity some or all of the symptoms described below may occur.
1. Fatigue and weakness: May be associated with increased sleep or lethargy.
2.Weight gain: Patients feel they cannot lose weight inspite of excercise and a poor appetite.
3. Constipation: There may be a sudden or gradual decrease in bowel movement or a change from the usual habit. It may be associated with bloating and abdominal pain.
4.Neck swelling and hoarseness of voice. There may be a gradual or sudden increase in the size of the lower neck due to enlargement in the thyroid gland (goiter). It is usually painless but at times it may be associated with pain. Hoarseness in voice is usually a feature of severe hypothyrodism.
5. Cold intolerance: (inability to bear cold climate) Patients are usually cold at night and feel colder than others around them even when the room temperature is normal.
6. Coarse dry skin: The skin usually feels rough even with regular application of creams and lotions.There may be decreased sweating, acne and brittle nails, and swelling around the eyes.
7.Hair Loss: Sudden falling of hair is reported in more than 50% of cases.
8. Menstrual abnormalities: Menses may be heavy, irregular and painful. It may lead to difficulty in getting pregnant.
9.Muscle pain: Muscle ache and back pain is common.
10. Respiratory disturbance: Respiratory muscles may be weak causing shortness of breath and inability of excercise or climb stairs.
11. Memory loss: Loss in memory and poor concentration.
Hypothyrodism may also lead to elevated cholestrol, anemia (low red blood cells) slow heart beat and edema (swelling in the legs)
Thyroxine is an essential hormone for brain development in infants and children under 2 yrs. A low level of this hormone at that early age could lead to mental retardation.
All infants born in hospitals are screened for the adequacy of this hormone and if found to be low must be treated early to prevent mental problems.
Hypothyrodism, if suspected must be confirmed before treatment is initiated. A simple laboratory blood test can conform this. The usual test obtained is thyroid function tests which include TSH, T4, and T3 levels in the blood.The test results are usually back the same day or the next day.
Treatment requires a synthetic form of the hormone thyroxine (L-Thyroxine) It is in the form of a tablet and has to be taken once a day on an empty stomach (usually before breakfast) The medication is generally safe for children and adults as long as the appropriate dose is followed.
In most cases symptoms of hypothyrodism begins to improve within two weeks. However those with more severe symptoms may require several months of treatment for full recovery.
Most people require to take the medication life long.Blood tests are needed every 6 weeks to 6 months to adjust the dose.
Pregnant women need a slightly higher dose of the medication and women who are on levothyroxine and get pregnant are asked to get a thyroid function test at the time they find out they are pregnant. This medication is safe to take during pregnancy.