Symptoms of hypothyroidism

Mar 18, 2012 , Tereza Kratochvílová

priznaky-hypotyreozy.jpg - kopie
priznaky-hypotyreozy.jpg - kopie
Hypothyroidism, the decreased function of the thyroid gland, manifests on many systems of our body. A thyroid gland is an organ specialized for producing hormones that control metabolism, so decreased levels of these hormones lead to slower metabolism. This disease develops slowly, which is why symptoms such as tiredness, weight gain or constipation are usually ignored. If you suffer from all or just some of these symptoms, visit your doctor as soon as possible.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism

The symptoms of hypothyroidism, the decreased function of the thyroid gland are dependent on the severity and duration of the disease. The main purpose of the thyroid gland is the production of hormones, which are indispensable for the body and influence a whole range of processes in the human body. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is a chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland and a lack of iodine in diet. Hypothyroidism is a fairly common disease, afflicting 1% of the population, 5% of population above 60 years old. 

Thyroid gland

The thyroid gland is a very important organ, whose specialization is the production of hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones influence many processes, such as fat burning, protein synthesis or oxygen management. Iodine is required for the production of these hormones, which is drawn out from the bloodstream by the gland and then used for hormone production. Another hormone of the thyroid gland is calcitonin, which controls calcium management, or to be more precise is moves calcium from blood into bones. Should there be a disbalance and a lowered production of these hormones, a condition known as a hypothyroidism occurs, with various symptoms. 

Causes of hypothyroidism

An adequate supply of iodine in diet is required for the gland to produce enough T3. The thyroid gland doesn't just release any amount of hormone into the bloodstream though. It's function is closely controlled by the hypophysis, which maintains the required activity of the gland using the TSH hormone. The hypophysis is an organ located in the brain, which works as a control center for the gland. If a lab exam reveals lowered levels of T4 or T3 in blood, it means the thyroid gland is suffering from some kind of a disease and doesn't produce sufficient amount of hormones. The causes of hypothyroidism are either congenital or gained. Gained ones are caused by lack of iodine in diet, by chronic thyroid gland inflammation, by irradiating a nearby tumor, using certain medication or chemicals and of course by removal of the gland due to cancer. The symptoms of the hypothyroidism are then derived from these disease. Rarely we can encounter hypothyroidism caused due to a hypophysis disease, which can be affected by a tumor, for example. 

Main symptoms of hypothyroidism

The symptoms of hypothyroidism show up show up on a great number of the body's organs. T3 mainly controls the entire body's metabolism. If the T3 levels are low, the metabolism slows down. In adults, hypothyroidism manifests as a myxedema, the swelling of skin and subcutaneous tissue in the face and on limbs. The first symptoms are tiredness, weight gain, dry skin and constipation. The disease develops slowly, which is why these symptoms are often overlooked. Other symptoms we can observe in a more developed case are overall slowness, great fatigue, sleepiness, general malaise and quickness to tire. Body temperature lowers, which manifests as a feeling of chilliness, patients tend to overdress and deal poorly with cold. The skin is pale and cold, occasionally with a yellowish tint. The skin is dry and tends to peel off, nails break off and splinter. There is a loss of hair, both on scalp and on face. The outside edges of the eyebrows tend to fall off as well.

Hypothyroidism and weight gain

Other symptoms of hypothyroidism occurring in the digestive tract are the slowing of peristaltics, constipation which can even lead to an intestinal blockage. Fluids are retained in the body, which is one of the reasons for weight gain. Other results of this are swellings and noticeably permeated skin. The swelling is very visible on the face, especially on eyelids and on tongue. Vocal chords also tend to swell, which causes raspiness or even loss of voice.

How hypothyroidism influences body systems

  • The cardiovascular systems reacts to hypothyroidism by slowing down the heart rate, which then has issues even with mild stress. Heart palpitations can occur. While the heart rate is slow, blood pressure is increased.
  • Nervous system slows down as well. An overall apathy, slower intellectual functions ans speech are present. Muscles are weak, stiff, sometimes convulsively contracted. Ligament reflexes are slow.
  • In males, infertility is a symptom of hypothyroidism. Gynecomastia (growth of breasts) can occur as well. Women lose their menstruation, are unable to finish pregnancy or become infertile as well.
  • In unborn children the lack of thyroid hormones causes cretinism. This is mainly due to a lack of iodine in diet, less commonly by a developmental disorder. It manifests as a severe mental retardation, incorrect development of bones and growth disorders.

If you suffer from some or all of these symptoms, visit your doctor as soon as possible. It is possible that you suffer from hypothyroidism. An early diagnosis can protect you from many unpleasant symptoms of this disease and the associated psychical issues, If you have already been diagnosed with one of the diseases listed above based on your symptoms, pay close attention to your doctor's instruction and do not miss any examinations. As a supplement of your treatment, you can include food containing high levels of iodine in your diet, preferably seafood. Plenty of rest is also recommended.

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