Underactive thyroid gland simply means that the thyroid gland is working less than what is required by the body. Thyroid gland is an important gland of the body that is located somewhere middle of the front side of the neck just nearer to voice-box and Adam’s apple. The gland secrets some hormones (known as thyroid hormones), that play active role in the metabolism of the body. Metabolism is nothing but the process by which, the body turns the food particles absorbable form.
Underactive thyroid is medically known as hypothyroidism wherein the thyroid gland produces little hormones than the body requires. In case, when the thyroid gland acts more than required and produces more hormones, it is known as hyperthyroidism and when the gland functions well with no hyper or hypo states, it is labeled as Euthyroid.
Underactive or hypothyroidism is common in adults but rarer in babies. According to statistics, one in every 4000 babies born with congenital hypothyroidism and that result into delayed milestones of the baby. Hypothyroidism affects women more often than men at about 7:1 in ratio and those people who have underactive thyroid are at a greater risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune dysfunctions etc.
The causes of underactive thyroid include Hashimoto thyroiditis, Lymphocytic Thyroiditis after hyperthyroidism. Certain radioactive surgery or iodine can also slow down the thyroid process and cause hypothyroidism. Excessive iodine deficiency is also a common cause for hypothyroidism.
The symptoms include sluggishness, unspecified weight gain, lethargy, decreased touch sensation, paleness and/or puffiness of the face especially surrounding eyes etc. Depression, dry and/or coarse hair, excessive sleepiness, fatigue, vague aches and pains are also common symptoms for hypothyroidism. There could be swelling of the legs, decreased ability to concentrate on subject, intolerance to the cold environment are not uncommon in patients with hypothyroidism. The pulse/heart rate may come down along with the drop in body temperature and hence, the patients with hypothyroidism are cool to touch.
Diagnosing the disease depends upon the severity of the symptoms and local and/or general body examination. However, TFT (Thyroid Function Test) in which, hormonal levels T3 and T4 is tested, confirms the disease and then according to the levels of thyroid hormone in the body, the treatment is decided.
Fortunately, the thyroid hormone that the body lacks in the condition of hypothyroidism can be supplied from outside. Thyroid hormone supplements are available in the form of pills and they are to be taken without failure to avoid further complications. There are some alternative therapies too, that help healing the thyroid problems. Acupressure, acupuncture, Ayurveda and Homeopathy has many therapies and drugs that work on thyroid gland and stimulate it to produce enough hormones. Latest researches support that practicing some holy exercises such as Yoga and Pranayama has dramatically improved underactive thyroid gland i.e. hypothyroidism and has also helped relieving symptoms that are caused due to hypothyroidism.
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