The thyroid gland is located in the front center of the neck, between the trachea and the larynx. It is the organ that produces the hormones triiodothyronine (T3), thyroxine (T4), and calcitonin. The thyroid requires iodine from food and the environment to produce them. The pituitary gland produces the hormone TSH, which regulates thyroid function.
Thyroid hormones affect many different processes and organs throughout the body, including:
- energy use,
- muscular strength,
- fertility and potency,
- heart work,
- the functioning of the nervous system,
- mental well-being,
- condition of skin, hair and nails.
A deficiency of thyroid hormones therefore adversely affects many processes in the body. both adults and children, who can also get sick.
Causes of hypothyroidism
A variety of factors can contribute to hypothyroidism. They can be primary (caused by thyroid gland damage) or secondary (resulting from abnormalities in the functioning of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus).
The primary causes of hypothyroidism are:
- Hashimoto’s disease, otherwise chronic autoimmune thyroiditis,
- postpartum thyroiditis,
- radioiodine treatment,
- neck radiotherapy,
- significant iodine deficiency,
- the use of certain medications (so-called drug-induced hypothyroidism), e.g. lithium salts, interferon, amiodarone,
- surgical removal of the thyroid gland,
- damage to the thyroid gland as a result of a disease, e.g. cancer,
- congenital hypothyroidism.
Causes of secondary hypothyroidism include:
- hypothalamic or pituitary tumors,
- injury or inflammation in the hypothalamus or pituitary gland,
- Sheehan’s syndrome
- neurological disorders in which there is a deficiency of nerve impulses that stimulate the pituitary gland and hypothalamus to produce thyroid hormones.
It should be added that iodine deficiency is an increasingly rare cause of the development of hypothyroidism, because iodine deficiencies in the diet are less frequent than in the past.
Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease
Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism today. As the immune system malfunctions and attacks its own tissues, in this case the thyroid, thyroid problems are becoming more and more autoimmune. Hashimoto’s disease can develop latently or in its early stages, causing hyperthyroidism symptoms for a short period of time. However, it usually progresses to hypothyroidism, and treatment focuses on that.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism
Symptoms of hypothyroidism are most often the result of slowing down the activity of the body. Symptoms often associated with hypothyroidism include a tendency to gain weight , but the list of typical ailments is much longer.
The main symptoms of hypothyroidism are:
- constant fatigue – inadequate to the effort,
- drowsiness that does not go away despite drinking coffee or energy drinks,
- problems with concentration and memory , and even memory loss or intellectual disorders that resemble dementia,
- muscle weakness,
- chronic constipation ,
- mood swings – especially despondency, indifference, depression , apathy,
- feeling cold – even when he is warmly dressed or in heated rooms,
- decreased sweating,
- swelling of the face, eyelids, hands, resulting from the accumulation of mucous substance in the intercellular spaces (myxoedema),
- pain, redness and burning of the eyes – the symptoms often resemble conjunctivitis,
- decrease in immunity – the result is frequent infections,
- problems with getting pregnant or carrying it to term,
- easy bruising,
- tingling and numbness of the hands,
- hair loss, paleness and dry skin.
If you notice that your neck circumference has increased for unknown reasons, go to your doctor and ask for a referral for thyroid tests..
The symptoms of hypothyroidism in the elderly are more difficult to spot because they are atypical. For this reason, hypothyroidism in the elderly is often misdiagnosed as atherosclerosis or depression.
The diagnosis of hypothyroidism involves measuring the blood level of TSH and FT4, which are hormones produced by the pituitary gland. If the TSH level is too high, the body is trying to stimulate the thyroid gland to work more intensively.
TSH parameters vary from laboratory to laboratory, but normal values are usually between 0.4 and 4.0 mIU/l. However, a doctor must evaluate the result on an individual basis. Because an infection or chronic illness can artificially lower or increase a single result’s reliability, it is also crucial. If symptoms typical of hypothyroidism are present, it is worth repeating the examination or extending the current diagnostics.
Treatment of hypothyroidism
Treatment for hypothyroidism is the oral administration of synthetic hormones, such as levothyroxine. Levothyroxine is taken every morning on an empty stomach and should not be eaten for 30–60 minutes. The effectiveness of the therapy is high, and many symptoms disappear in a short time, but some patients still report some symptoms. To ensure the effectiveness of the therapy, TSH levels should be measured regularly, and in some 30–60 T4.