Hypothyroidism is a medical condition involving reduced production of hormones by the thyroid gland. These thyroid hormones consist of triiodothyronine and thyroxine or T3 and T4 respectively. When these hormones are low as in the case of hypothyroidism, the metabolism and overall body processes are slowed leading to signs and symptoms.
The thyroid is a small organ located on the neck area. Its function is regulated by the pituitary gland, which in turn is regulated by the hypothalamus.
Causes of Hypothyroidism
There may be different causes of hypothyroidism that cause the thyroid to release fewer hormones. Specific causes include:
- Iodine deficiency
Deficiency of iodine in the diet is one of the most common reasons for hypothyroidism. Iodine is the basic element for the production of thyroid hormones so a deficiency of which decreases the amount of iodine to be used for hormone production.
- Removal of the thyroid gland
Removal of the thyroid gland can also precipitate hypothyroidism because of the complete lack of the organ to regulate the production of hormones. Removal of the thyroid or thyroidectomy is usually performed for goiter cases.
- Treatment for hyperthyroidism
Iodine-131 is a radioactive compound used to treat hyperthyroidism. Its mechanism is to slow down the activity of the gland, which may lead to slowing of the overall function if patients are exposed to it longer.
- CNS problems
Problems in the CNS affecting the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus may also alter the thyroid gland’s ab8lity to produce T3 and T4.
Other more general causes include stress, which can cause problems in the thyroid function.
Classifications of Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism does not only involve the thyroid gland itself, but other organs that regulate the thyroid function as well. The various sources of hypothyroidism are classified into three major types of the problem including:
- Primary hypothyroidism
Primary hypothyroidism involves the problem in the thyroid gland itself. Specific causes include Hashimoto’s disease, iodine deficiency and the side effects of hyperthyroidism therapy.
- Secondary Hypothyroidism
Secondary hypothyroidism is related to problems in the pituitary gland. These conditions include radiation damage, tumor growth or surgery damaging the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland produces thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) responsible for stimulating the thyroid gland to produce T3 and T4.
- Tertiary Hypothyroidism
Tertiary hypothyroidism involves problem in the hypothalamus inhibiting the pituitary gland from producing enough TSH to stimulate the thyroid gland.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism leads to slowing of most bodily functions leading to symptoms such as:
- Intolerance to cold
- Reduced sweating
- Weight gaining
- Slow heart rate
- Brittle fingernails
- Thin and bitter hair
- Dry skin
- Changes in menstrual cycle
- Puffy face
Treatment for Hypothyroidism
Since the main reason for hypothyroidism is a decrease in thyroid hormone, hormone replacement therapy is the main treatment of choice. This involves administering thyroid hormones in the form of levothyroxine and other similar preparations. This helps normalize the thyroid hormone levels and reverse the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism involves a great deal of symptoms. It is important to prevent its development by consuming foods rich in iodine since iodine deficiency is the most common cause of the condition when surgery, radiation, pituitary and hypothalamus problems are not the cause. Consume sea foods and make sure to use iodized table salt when cooking.