If you’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, you’ll be eager to know what is hypothyroidism and how it’ll affect your life on a day-to-day basis. The first thing you need to know about this disease is that in almost all cases, it is fatal only if left untreated. Secondly, it is not completely curable and requires treatment throughout the course of your life.
Now that you know that the outcome of this condition is not all bad, you need to learn more about it to accustom yourself to the idea of living with hypothyroidism.
What Is Hypothyroidism?
At the time of hypothyroidism diagnosis, you’re likely to have heard from your doctor that this is a condition caused by an underactive thyroid gland. To elaborate on that, your thyroid gland produces important hormones like thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These thyroid hormones are responsible for regulating the rate at which your body uses up fats and carbohydrates. Their production and release into your bloodstream depends on the interdependent functioning of your thyroid gland, pituitary gland, and your hypothalamus.
When there is a malfunction at any of these levels, it affects the production of the thyroid hormones. In your case, the thyroid gland has failed to produce these hormones in sufficient quantities, and as a result you have hypothyroidism.
Causes And Risk Factors
While the exact cause of your condition can be pinpointed only through a consultation with your doctor, here are some causes and risk factors associated with this condition.
- Iodine deficiency, which is the most common cause of hypothyroidism
- Sporadic inheritance, which is either a non-genetic disorder unlikely to be repeated or a genetic one occurring for the first time in the family
- The use of lithium-based mood stabilizers, which are prescribed for treating individuals with bipolar disorder
In some cases, hypothyroidism may be transient. For example, some women develop this condition for a short while post pregnancy. In rare cases, children may be affected with hypothyroidism at birth.
Symptoms That Act As Red Flags
Some of these symptoms are probably what alerted you that something was amiss with your body and drove you to consult a doctor for diagnosis.
- Dry and itchy skin
- Weight gain
- Decreased sweating
- Increased sensitivity to cold
While these are some common and early hypothyroidism symptoms, there may be others like hair loss, memory impairment, lowered sense of smell and taste, and shortness of breath.
Diagnosis Measures Followed
A measurement of the Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is the most common test for hypothyroidism. If your TSH levels appear to be normal, you still might be required to undergo other blood tests to rule out the presence of secondary or tertiary hypothyroidism. In some cases, the diagnosis involves the measurement of the basal body temperature, serum cholesterol, and antithyroid antibodies.
Treatment Options Likely To Be Suggested
Hypothyroidism treatment involves administering the levorotatory forms of triiodothyronine (liothyronine or L-T3) and thyroxine (levothyroxine or L-T4). But, based on the exact nature of your condition, your doctor may put you on one of the following treatments.
- A combination therapy involving the natural forms of L-T3 and L-T4, which are found in an animal-based thyroid extract
- A combination therapy involving the simultaneous administration of the L-T4 and L-T3 hormones in their synthetic form
- Administration of the synthetic form of levothyroxine or L-T4 only, which is the most common form of treatment
If you’ve been diagnosed with subclinical hypothyroidism, your physician will need to study your condition further to narrow down the best options for treatment.
Since you’ve now understood what is hypothyroidism, it is probably evident to you that this is a medical condition like any other, and with a timely hypothyroidism test and treatment, it can be kept under control. Sticking to a hypothyroidism diet also helps to quite an extent.
As long as you consult your doctor from time to time and strictly adhere to his advice, your hypothyroidism treatment should proceed without a glitch. More importantly, learning in detail about what is hypothyroidism can help you stop worrying about your condition and mentally prepare yourself to live with it.