What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a condition that develops when the thyroid gland makes little or no thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormones help control body temperature, heart rate, growth, and how you gain or lose weight.
What causes hypothyroidism?
- Autoimmune disease: A problem with the immune system may make your body attack your thyroid gland. Hashimoto disease is the most common autoimmune disease that causes hypothyroidism.
- Medicines: Certain medicines can cause hypothyroidism. Ask your caregiver if any of the medicines you take can cause hypothyroidism.
- Treatments: Radiation therapy used to treat cancers of the head and neck can destroy your thyroid gland. Thyroid surgery also makes you more likely to develop hypothyroidism.
- Thyroid problems: An enlarged or swollen thyroid, lumps caused by infections, or thyroid cancer can affect how your thyroid works.
- Family history: Your risk is greater if a family member has hypothyroidism or an autoimmune disease.
- Low iodine levels: The thyroid gland uses iodine to work correctly and to make thyroid hormones.
What are the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism?
The signs and symptoms develop slowly, sometimes over several years.
- Extreme fatigue
- Sensitivity to cold
- Dry, flaky skin or brittle fingernails
- Thin hair
- Muscle weakness
- Heavy or irregular monthly periods
- Depression or irritability
How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?
Your caregiver will ask about your symptoms and examine you. He will ask what medicines you take. He will ask about your medical history and if anyone in your family has hypothyroidism. You will have blood tests to check your thyroid hormone level.
How is hypothyroidism treated?
Thyroid medicine will bring your thyroid hormone level back to normal. Ask your caregiver for more information on other medicines you may need.
What are the risks of hypothyroidism?
You may develop high cholesterol, because your liver needs thyroid hormone to filter the cholesterol from your blood. Without treatment, hypothyroidism can become a life-threatening condition called myxedema. Myxedema can cause swelling in your legs, lungs, or around your heart.
When should I contact my caregiver?
Contact your caregiver if:
- You have a fever.
- You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
- You have pain and swelling in your muscles and joints.
- Your skin is itchy, swollen, or you have a rash.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
When should I seek immediate help?
Seek help immediately or call 911 if:
- Your signs and symptoms return or get worse, even after treatment.
- You have diarrhea, tremors, or trouble sleeping.
- Your legs, ankles, or feet are swollen.
- You feel like you are going to faint.
- You have a seizure.
- You have sudden chest pain or shortness of breath.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.