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Myxedema coma is one of the most serious complications of hypothyroidism, a thyroid disorder which leads to insufficient production of the thyroid hormones. Myxedema coma is a severe problem and a life-threatening complication which requires prompt medical help.

Clinical Characteristics of Hypothyroidism

Before actually developing myxedema coma patients always complain about some symptoms of hypothyroidism or they develop obvious signs of the condition. For example, there may be fatigue, lethargy, mental impairment, depression and headache. Such patients additionally complain about dry skin, weight gain, constipation and cold intolerance. Hoarseness and changes in menstrual cycles are two more characteristics of improper production  of the thyroid hormones.

How Does Myxedema Coma Develop?

In order to develop myxedema coma a person must be suffering from hypothyroidism in the first place. Furthermore, there need to be some triggers and in many patients this complication develops either due to improper control of the disease or due to environmental triggers such as extremes in temperature. If the condition is further left neglected, a patient will eventually die.

Myxedema coma generally affects patients with a history of hypothyroidism and those who have undergone thyroid surgery. Furthermore, it can also occur in people who have been treated with radioactive iodine due to some conditions of the thyroid gland (tumors, hyperthyroidism etc.).

Clinical Characteristics of Myxedema Coma

Myxedema coma basically leads to abnormally low body temperature (the temperature may even reach 80 F/26.6 C). Such patients also develop serious mental issues such as hallucinations or seizures. They may be disorientated or fall into deep and actual coma. There is also intense swelling of the entire body, particularly the eyelids and the tongue. Breathing difficulties generally develop due to accumulation of fluid around the lungs or the heart. As for the gastrointestinal tract, patients may end up with ileus (disruption of normal movement of the intestine which allows transfer of intestinal content). And finally, due to excessive accumulation of fluid inside the body patients also have abnormal blood tests.

Prevention of Myxedema Coma

Because it is known how myxedema coma develops, it is obvious that there are ways to prevent its occurrence. The first thing and definitely the most important one is to have regular follow-up care and undergo regular blood testing in order to adapt hormone replacement therapy and make changes, if necessary. 

Patients with symptoms and signs require proper examination and adequate treatment as soon as possible. So, basically by keeping hypothyroidism under control and with optimal treatment using artificial thyroid hormones one can successfully avoid myxedema coma and all its detrimental effects.

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