Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) occurs when the thyroid gland is unable to produce a sufficient amount of thyroid hormones. It can be difficult to detect hypothyroidism in its early stages as the symptoms are usually not noticeable. However, if left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to a number of additional health issues, such as joint pain, obesity, heart disease and infertility.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism vary, depending on the severity of the condition and hormone deficiency. As metabolism slows, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Weight gain (ex: puffy face)
- Weak muscles
- Heavy menstrual cycles
- Thinning hair
- Dry skin
- Tender and stiff muscles or swelling in joints
- Slowed heart rate
What Causes Hypothyroidism
If the thyroid is unable to produce a sufficient amount of hormones, there are a number of reasons as to why. These are some examples of the causes:
- Autoimmune disease: This is the most common cause of an underactive thyroid. Autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system develops antibodies that attack body tissue and can negatively affect the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones.
- Thyroid surgery: Having a portion of or your entire thyroid gland removed can reduce or stop the proper hormone production.
How Hypothyroidism Is Diagnosed
The doctor may test you for hypothyroidism if you express to them that you’re feeling fatigued, have especially dry skin, weight gain or have experienced thyroid issues in the past. Thyroid issues can now be detected far enough in advance before you even begin to experience symptoms. Normally, those with a hypothyroidism condition will take daily thyroid hormone levothyroxine to balance their hormone levels and prevent hypothyroidism symptoms.