Healthcare Library

Hypothyroidism

Do you feel tired and weak? Well, there could be many reasons for that, but a slow, underactive thyroid may be your problem. Let's talk about hypothyroidism - also known as Slow Thyroid. Here's the thyroid. It's this butterfly shaped gland in your neck - just below the voice box. The thyroid gland is known as the master gland of the body. It regulates our metabolism, so we don't act slow, like turtles, or fast, like jackrabbits. This gland releases hormones that control many important things, like helping your heart pump blood, stimulating your brain and muscles, and helping you keep your body at a healthy temperature. When you have hypothyroidism, your thyroid gland does not make enough hormone, so you end up feeling a bit slow, and perhaps cold, like the turtle. So, what causes a slow thyroid? For at least 9 out of 10 folks, the cause is something called Hashimoto's thyroiditis -- It's what we call an autoimmune condition, where, for reasons that we don't quite understand, our own body attacks perfectly good thyroid tissue as though it were a foreign invader. This attack damages the thyroid gland, so much, that it can't put out enough hormone. This attack happens much more often in women than in men, 10 and 20 times more often. Also, some women develop this condition soon after pregnancy, Why that happens? Nobody knows for sure! So, how do you feel if you have a slow thyroid? If it's just mildly slow, you might not feel anything at all, that's called subclinical hypothyroidism. On the other hand, you might be experiencing symptoms of a slow thyroid RIGHT NOW, but you just haven't connected the dots. You might have mild fatigue, memory or concentration problems. You may have a decreased sex drive, or have trouble losing weight. If you have hypothyroidism, the main treatment is to use a synthetic form of T4 hormone, called Levothyroxine, that simply replaces what your body isn't producing. After starting hormone replacement, your hormone levels should be checked about every 6 weeks, to make sure you are maintaining normal levels. It's important to remember that treating hypothyroidism does not cure the problem, it only controls it. And once you're on Thyroid hormone replacement, you're probably on it for life. The good news is that once your thyroid situation is properly regulated, you'll probably feel a whole lot better.

Hypothyroidism

Review Date: 5/20/2019

Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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