Hypothyroidism is a condition where your thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones, so your body metabolism is much slower than it should be. As much as 10% of women are thought to have some level of thyroid hormone deficiency, and up to 10 million Americans have some level of hypothyroidism.
An easy way to remember what hypothyroidism means is this: Hypo means LOW. Unlike hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism is a low functioning thyroid. If you would like to learn more about hyperthyroidism click here.
What is the Thyroid and what does the Thyroid do?
In the center of the lower part of your neck is a butterfly shaped gland called the thyroid. The thyroid gland controls your body metabolism, heart rate, nervous system, weight, body temperature and breathing, as well as other functions within the body, by creating hormones known as T3 and T4. These hormones tell your body how much energy to use for different functions. The level of thyroid hormones circulating in your body is controlled by the pituitary gland, located just at the base of your brain. If your thyroid hormone level is low it will send Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) to your thyroid gland to tell it increase the production of T3 and/or T4 as needed.
According to the American Thyroid Association, more than 12% of the population in the United States will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime, and approximately 20 million Americans currently have thyroid disease while most of them, approximately 60%, may be unaware of it.
What causes Hypothyroidism?
- Thyroiditis – inflammation of the thyroid gland which causes a reduction in the hormone produced
- Postpartum thyroiditis – approximately 4-9% of women will have this temporary condition after giving birth.
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis –a hereditary disease of the immune system also called autoimmune thyroiditis.
- Iodine deficiency – as many as 100 million individuals around the world have this issue. The thyroid uses iodine to produce hormones. Iodized salt has prevented iodine deficiency in most of the world.
- Non-functioning thyroid – all newborn babies are given a blood test to check their thyroid function, as this condition affects approximately 1 in 4000 newborns.
What are Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
Symptoms of hypothyroidism may vary from patient to patient, but these are some of the more common symptoms:
- Intolerance to cold
- Change in voice (gravelly or hoarse)
- Dry skin and dry hair
- Weight gain or inability to lose weight easily
- Hair loss
- Frequent and/or heavy menstrual periods
- Thinning of the outer edge of eyebrows
- Muscle and/or tendon aches
Diagnosing and treatment for Hypothyroidism
If you or your doctors are concerned about your thyroid function, a simple test called a Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) blood test will give you quick answers. In fact, it may even detect a problem with your thyroid levels before you even notice symptoms.
What to ask your doctor about Hypothyroidism
Your doctor and your pharmacist are there to work together for your ultimate wellness. Going to your doctor with a list of questions puts you in a better position to understand your condition and open a dialogue about the best treatment for your needs. Here are some questions to ask your doctor:
- What caused my hypothyroidism?
- What do my blood test results mean?
- What is my TSH level and what is my target TSH level?
- How often should I have my blood tested?
- How quickly can I expect to feel better?
Prescription Medication for Hypothyroidism
Your doctor will determine how much prescription medication for hypothyroidism you will need based on your blood test called a serum TSH level. Synthroid™ and Eltroxin™ contain levothyroxine and are often prescribed to treat low or “hypo” thyroid levels. A natural source of thyroid medication is available in ERFA and Armour Thyroid™ tablets as well.
To learn about what is in these medications, visit our information page “What is the difference between ERFA™ and Armour™ Thyroid tablets?” We also invite you to give our team here at Canada Online Health a phone call at 1-800-399-DRUG (3784). We will be happy to discuss these medications and answer any questions you might have about this or any other of your prescription medications.
This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor. It is not intended to be used as either a diagnoses or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation. If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911).