Hypothyroidism is a disease, in which the thyroid produces insufficient thyroid hormone (thyroxine). As a result, physical and mental processes slow down. It may be temporary, but usually this condition is chronic. Hypothyroidism is a common disease that mainly occurs in middle-aged women.
Hypothyroidism can have various causes. Usually, there is Hashimoto’s disease. A person’s own antibodies cause a painless inflammation of the thyroid then and thyroid tissue gets lost. Sometimes, the thyroid operates temporarily too fast (hyperthyroidism), before a person gets hypothyroidism. The cause is not known. What is known, is that the antibodies play an important role. The body produces these antibodies on its own.
Hypothyroidism can also occur after pregnancy. Again, the thyroid sometimes operates too fast, before the hypothyroidism occurs. This form of hypothyroidism usually restores automatically.
Hypothyroidism sometimes arises due to an acute, painful inflammation of the thyroid. First, the thyroid operates too fast then and the person has flu-like symptoms. Next, the person suffers from hypothyroidism. This condition passes on its own and the patient has no increased risk of hypothyroidism in the future.
Hypothyroidism has many other causes, such as thyroid surgery, treatment with radioactive iodine, congenital hypothyroidism, Down’s or Turner syndrome, iodine shortage or certain medications.
Due to an underactive thyroid, the following signs and symptoms may occur:
- Loss of emotion and enthusiasm.
- Extreme fatigue.
- Heart problems.
- Menstrual problems.
- Loss of libido.
- Sensitivity to cold.
- No perspiration.
- Hair loss.
- Swollen face.
- Weight gain.
- Hoarse, deeper voice.
When hypothyroidism is suspected, the doctor will perform blood tests, in order to determine the amount of thyroid hormone, the amount of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and the amount of antibodies to the thyroid.
Hypothyroidism is a disease that can be treated very well and fairly soon after initiating treatment, the symptoms will reduce. The standard treatment for hypothyroidism is daily intake of synthetic thyroid hormone. The treatment is usually for life. If a slow thyroid operation is caused by iodine shortage, the patient should take sufficient iodine via food.
The prospects of hypothyroidism are usually excellent, provided that the condition is treated in time and correctly. The symptoms are reversible and respond very well to medication. It’s important though that the treatment is followed properly and the medication is taken for life. Untreated hypothyroidism can in the long run lead to coma and even death. In practice, this no longer occurs in Western countries.
- In many cases, adjusting the diet is already a big step in the right direction to healing of hypothyroidism. It’s important to take as much high-iodine foods as possible, such as kelp, parsley, potatoes, fish, oatmeal and bananas.
- In addition, it’s important to get enough copper, iron, selenium and zinc, because these are essential for the production of thyroid hormone.
- Exercise is also important. Fifteen to twenty minutes sports daily, so that the heart rate goes up, has a positive effect on hypothyroidism.
- The term ‘hypothyroidism’ is derived from the Greek prefix hupo- (under, below) and the Greek word thyreos/thureos (shield).
- The prevalence of hypothyroidism is 1.4%.
- The prevalence of hyperthyroidism has been unchanged for a long time, but that of hypothyroidism is obviously increasing. The reason for this is not clear.
- The condition is most common in women older than 40 years.
- Women are eight times more likely to develop a thyroid disease than men.