Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone. This could be a problem with the thyroid gland itself, or it could have to do with the hypothalamus or pituitary hormone. Both of these stimulate the production of the thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism disease is an endocrine disorder which is quite common and is seen more in men than in women.
If you are wondering what causes hypothyroidism, most of the cases, around 95% or more, are caused from a problem in the thyroid gland. About 5% or less are caused by a pituitary gland problem or problem in the brain. Causes can include interference from drugs, radiation, treatment postpartum thyroiditis, subacute thyroiditis, treatment of thyroid tumors and a condition called Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Symptoms of hypothyroidism many times are subtle. They are not specific, meaning they might look like symptoms of other conditions, and they are often attributed to aging. People who have mild hypothyroidism may not even have any symptoms or signs. As the condition gets worse, the symptoms will usually become more apparent. The bulk of the complaints from this disease are in relation to the metabolic slowing of the body.
Digestive Symptoms – Even with loss of appetite, hypothyroidism can cause mild to moderate weight gain. It can also be the cause of constipation. Patients suffering from this disease can experience severe edema, especially in their lower extremities due to the weight gain mainly being fluid in nature.
Fatigue – A very common symptom, fatigue and also loss of energy will likely be seen when you have hypothyroidism. Plus, this may include low mental energy, which can lead to problems with your memory or concentration.
Sensory Disturbances – Decreased hearing, numbness or tingling in your feet and hands, plus blurred vision are also possible symptoms. Also not uncommon is an intolerance to cold or feeling cold even in warmer temperatures.
Dermatological – You may also see less perspiration, hair loss, and dry hair and skin with hypothyroidism.
Psychological Symptoms – Mood swings, depression and cognitive impairment can all point to this disease.
Pain – Joints and muscles may be achy or in pain, plus you can have feelings of muscle weakness. You could even experience muscle swelling.
Fertility – The inability to conceive and irregularities in menstrual cycles can also occur due to hypothyroidism.
Other symptoms of hypothyroidism can include the yellowing of your skin, brittle nails, hoarseness and a rise in your cholesterol levels.
Symptoms in Children, Teens and Infants
Hypothyroidism is rare in these age groups, but it can occur. For infants, symptoms can include choking on food and a poor appetite. It can also include scaly, dry skin. For teens and children the symptoms are behavioral and also changes in performance at school. They may also gain weight but have a low growth rate. Teens can also have delayed puberty and look a lot younger than their real age.
Progression of the Disease
As the disease progresses and becomes more severe, you may see puffiness around your eyes, a decrease in body temperature, your heart rate getting slower and also heart failure. At its worst, severe hypothyroidism can even lead to a life-threatening coma, or myxedema coma. This coma can be triggered because of a severe illness, stress, surgery or a traumatic injury. The patient then requires hospitalization and treatment right away with thyroid hormones by injection.
With the hypothyroidism tests and the right diagnosis, this disease can be easily easily and completely with thyroid hormone replacement. However, hypothyroidism that goes untreated can lead to cardiomyopathy, or a heart which is enlarged, which worsens your chance of your heart failing, and also pleural effusion, or the collection of fluid around your lungs.
Typically, the severity of your symptoms will depend on your age, how long you've had hypothyroidism and how serious your condition is. Your symptoms could be so mild and going so slowly that you do not notice them for many years. The older you get, however, the likelier you are to notice the symptoms.