Hypothyroidism is a condition in which thyroid gland does not work at its full capacity. Thyroid is a small gland in the lower part of the neck. It produces two hormones- T4 and T3. These hormones control the metabolism of the body and help to break down food into energy and heat.
Hypothyroidism happens because the T4 and T3 go down in amount and which inversely causes an increase of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) from the Pituitary gland in the brain.
Symptoms and Signs of Hypothyroidism:
- Cold Intolerance
- Weight Gain
- Dry Skin
- Hair Loss
- Irregular and Heavy Periods in Women
- Forgetfulness and Confusion
- Loss of Eyebrows
- Slow Heart Rate
- High Diastolic Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Increased risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease
Diagnosis of Hypothyroidism is made by doing a blood test to check TSH, Free T4 and Total T3. In Hypothyroidism, the Free T4, Total T3 go down, and the TSH goes up, TSH being the most sensitive test out of these.
Treatment of Hypothyroidism is with T4 in the form of Levothyroxine with brand names like Synthroid, Unithroid, Tirosint. Some people feel better when they are treated with T3 also in the form of Armor Thyroid or Cytomel. When the medicine is started, it takes 7-10 days for the medicine to start working and symptom improvement can take a little longer. The medicine is taken empty stomach in the morning with a gap of about half hour before anything can be eaten to help with optimal absorption. Blood test is then done in 4-6 weeks after starting the medicine and the dose is then adjusted according to the blood test results. Once a stable state and level is achieved, then much change is not needed unless there is a weight gain or weight loss. Usually the dose of the medicine goes up during pregnancy because of higher requirement for growth of the baby.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the commonest cause of Hypothyroidism. It is an autoimmune condition which can cause Goiter, which is an enlarged Thyroid Gland. Sometimes there can be nodules also which might at times require biopsy depending on the size and structure. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can be associated with some other autoimmune conditions also such as Vitamin B12 Deficiency, Vitiligo, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Celiac Sprue (Gluten Sensitivity) and Diabetes.
Hypothyroidism can be managed very well with awareness of the condition, along with proper management and treatment.