If you have been steadily gaining weight and feeling lethargic, have you considered hypothyroidism as a possible cause? Since these are two of the most consistent symptoms, it is worth considering. Hypothyroidism is a thyroid gland condition where your thyroid is not producing enough hormones for your body to function regularly. Hyperthyroidism refers to an overactive thyroid, and hypothyroidism an under-active one. Some causes that may lead to you developing hypothyroidism include radiation treatment, thyroid removal surgery, or autoimmune disease.
The thyroid hormones released by the thyroid enters the bloodstream and therefore impacts almost every system in your body. The hormones helps regulate your metabolism, so when there is insufficient amounts of this hormone, your metabolism will slow down and cause side effects of slow metabolism. Women are more prone to hypothyroidism, especially after the age of 60. People with autoimmune disorders may also have a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism.
A top cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune condition where your thyroid gland is damaged from being attacked by your body’s own antibodies.
If you’ve had surgery to remove your thyroid, you could develop hypothyroidism. Additionally, if you’ve had radiation treatment to your neck region, the thyroid could have become damaged from this. For example, lymphoma is a type of cancer that is treated by radiation that could make it hard for your thyroid gland to produce adequate hormones.
Certain medications that treat cancer, mental illness and heart conditions may affect your thyroid hormone production. You can check with your doctor whether any medications you are using are compromising your thyroid hormones and inquire about your options.
Since your thyroid requires iodine to produce hormones, lacking adequate amounts of iodine from your diet can lead to hypothyroidism. The only way to get iodine is through diet. Examples include dairy products, fish, eggs, and shellfish are all dietary sources of iodine.
How hypothyroidism shows up for you will depend on the degree of thyroid hormone deficiency you are experiencing. This condition often takes years to develop, so the symptoms may not be obvious until your hypothyroidism is more advanced.
The two most common symptoms of hypothyroidism are fatigue and weight gain. Other symptoms could include
Hair loss or dry hair
Heightened sensitivity to cold temperatures
Bloating and puffiness in the face
Muscle weakness, stiffness and pain
Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling
Decreased heart rate
Increased blood cholesterol level
How Do You Treat Hypothyroidism?
When hypothyroidism is confirmed by your doctor, you may be prescribed a daily medication that ensures you get enough of the T4 thyroid hormone. Synthroid (levothyroxine) is a common medication that works to regulate proper hormone levels when your thyroid is not naturally producing them. It is also used to treat goiters. Make sure to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, herbs and supplements you take before beginning treatment.
It is important to diagnose and develop a treatment plan for hypothyroidism. While we mentioned that middle-aged women are more prone to this condition, anyone can have hypothyroidism, even babies. If left untreated, hypothyroidism and its symptoms can become more serious. You may develop a goiter and suffer from memory loss, slow mental processing and depression. In the rare case that hypothyroidism reaches untreated advanced levels, called myxedema, this could lead to difficulty breathing, lowered body temperature, unconsciousness, coma, or even become life threatening.
If you think you have or may be developing hypothyroidism, see your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment plan.