Does It Feel Like Christmas in July?
Patients with hypothyroidism can experience a wide array of symptoms. Some people may not notice any symptoms at all, depending on thyroid hormone blood levels. Feeling cold all the time can indicate problems with thyroid function, and a physician may be needed to conduct a full assessment. Fortunately, hypothyroidism can be reversed with medication.
What is the thyroid?
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located in the front of the neck. The thyroid receives signals from the pituitary gland and then releases the thyroid hormone directly into the bloodstream to be delivered to various body tissues. Thyroid hormone plays an essential role in regulating multiple organ systems, including muscle, heart, and brain function, as well as metabolism. Abnormally low levels of thyroid hormone can disrupt normal body physiology and cause a host of uncomfortable side effects.
Signs and symptoms of an underactive thyroid
Symptoms of hypothyroidism will depend on thyroid hormone levels and can vary from person to person. The condition tends to develop slowly, so patients with early or subclinical hypothyroidism may not notice any problems for several months or more. Common symptoms of clinical hypothyroidism include cold intolerance, weight gain, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, dry skin, thinning hair, swollen face, slowed heart rate, goiter, depression, heavy menstruation, and fertility problems.
Who is at risk for hypothyroidism?
Generally, older women are more likely to develop hypothyroidism than men. Other risk factors include being white or Asian, having prematurely grey hair, and having an autoimmune disease such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, bipolar disorder, and pernicious anemia. Also, having a family member with an autoimmune disease raises the risk of developing hypothyroidism.
When is it time to call the doctor?
See a healthcare provider if fatigue or cold intolerance does not resolve or seems to worsen over time. Fortunately, hypothyroidism can be effectively treated. Standard treatment involves the daily use of an oral synthetic thyroid hormone, which restores hormone levels to normal and greatly improves symptoms. For more information, speak with a healthcare provider.