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What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a condition that develops when the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormones help control body temperature, heart rate, growth, and weight.

Thyroid and Parathyroid Glands

What causes hypothyroidism?

If you have a family member with hypothyroidism, your risk is increased. Any of the following can cause hypothyroidism:

  • Autoimmune disease, such as inflammation of your thyroid, or Hashimoto disease
  • Surgery, radiation therapy, or medicines such as lithium, sedatives, or narcotics
  • Thyroid cancer or viral infection
  • Low iodine levels

What are the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism?

The signs and symptoms may develop slowly, sometimes over several years.

  • Exhaustion
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Headaches or decreased concentration
  • Muscle aches or weakness
  • Constipation
  • Dry, flaky skin or brittle nails
  • Thinning hair
  • Heavy or irregular monthly periods
  • Depression or irritability

How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and what medicines you take. He will ask about your medical history and if anyone in your family has hypothyroidism. A blood test will show your thyroid hormone level.

How is hypothyroidism treated?

Thyroid hormone replacement medicine may bring your thyroid hormone level back to normal. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on other medicines you may need.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have sudden chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • You have a seizure.
  • You feel like you are going to faint.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have diarrhea, tremors, or trouble sleeping.
  • Your legs, ankles, or feet are swollen.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • 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.
  • Your signs and symptoms return or get worse, even after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.