What Is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is characterized by an underactive thyroid gland, which doesn’t produce enough of its hormones. Women after the age of 50 are found to be at an increased risk of developing this condition. A person suffering from some autoimmune diseases or someone whose close family member had autoimmune disease is also discovered to be exposed to an increased risk of hypothyroidism. Patients treated with anti-thyroid drugs or radioactive iodine for hyperthyroidism or those who had thyroid surgery are also considered to be at risk to develop hypothyroidism. Radiation of the neck or upper part of the chest may also mean that you are now at a higher risk for development of this medical condition.
Consequences of Untreated Hypothyroidism
It is very rare to see any signs in the early days of hypothyroidism but the condition is known to progress and it can cause many health problems. Goiter, heart problems peripheral neuropathy and myxedema are just some of the potential issues. Patients who haven’t been treated for hypothyroidism may also experience some mental health difficulties or infertility. Pregnant women whose hypothyroidism was not properly managed may give birth to children with certain birth defects.
Goiter is caused by the constant stimulation of the thyroid gland to produce more hormones. Constant stimulation leads to this enlargement of the thyroid gland. Besides being an esthetic problem, large goiter may negatively affect your breathing and swallowing.
Hypothyroidism may cause increase of the “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and provoke many heart problems.
Peripheral neuropathy is often seen in these patients and they experience tingling, numbness or even pain in the areas of the body affected by this complication.
Myxedema occurs in people whose hypothyroidism was not treated for a very long period of time. This problem is extremely severe and may end up fatally.
Mental health problems, such as depression and slower mental function are not rare in patients suffering from hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism has been known to provoke infertility and cause birth defects in babies born by mothers whose thyroid problem was not taken care of.
How To Treat Hypothyroidism?
Levothyroxine is a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone used as the treatment for people suffering from hypothyroidism. People using these tablets often feel first improvement after a week or two after the start of the treatment. This drug can increase the level of thyroid hormones in the body, decrease the fatigue and reverse weight gain.
Most patients prescribed with levothyroxine must use it for the rest of their lives, but the required dose might change from time to time. Your doctor might warn you to avoid calcium and iron supplements, antacid drugs with aluminum hydroxide and cholestyramine, for these drugs and supplements are known to affect proper absorption of levothyroxine.