There are many causes of hypothyroidism
Some of the common ones are Hashimoto’s disease, lack of iodine, medications, radiation therapy and thyroid surgery.
What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a medical condition whereby your thyroid gland does not produce enough of the crucial thyroid hormone needed to perform important body functions – primarily to take care of your metabolism. Hypothyroidism, also known as Underactive Thyroid, is more likely to affect women. Diagnosis is undertaken using tests which measure the thyroid in the blood.
Hypothyroidism caused by the thyroid gland is called primary hypothyroidism.
If another problem changes the ability of the thyroid to make hormones, then it is known as secondary hypothyroidism.
12 causes of hypothyroidism
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder that affects more women than men. The immune system destroys the thyroid gland and causes hyperactivity for some time before manifesting in swelling at the base of the neck known as goiter. This is the most likely cause of hypothyroidism.
- Lack of iodine Iodine is a very important trace mineral. It cannot be made by the body. Yet it is needed by the thyroid to function properly so, we have to source iodine through our diet or by supplementation. Iodine-rich foods include can be found in seaweed and seafood, dairy and eggs. Both an iodine deficiency or too much iodine can lead to thyroid hormone production problems, thus causing Hypothyroidism.
- Radiation therapy Radiation therapy is used in treating cancer and when required close to the neck the radiation can damage the cells in the thyroid leading to hypothyroidism.
- Autoimmune diseases Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Celiac, Grave’s disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, Type-1 Diabetes and Addison’s disease, can form a basis for the occurrence of hypothyroidism. Autoimmune diseases are medical conditions whereby the body fights itself when the immune system releases antibodies to attack the tissues.
- Grave’s disease Grave’s disease is caused when the immune system suffers malfunctioning that leads to the overproduction of thyroid hormones. The condition, as already inferred above, is known as hyperthyroidism, which is treated by slowing down the production of thyroid hormones. The treatment process itself can lead to hypothyroidism if not monitored well.
- Medications Certain medications lower the production of thyroid hormones. Some of these medications are used to treat stress-related, psychiatric conditions and cancer. The medications include interferon alpha, amiodarone and lithium. They alter the functioning of thyroid glands thus slowing down the production and release of thyroid hormones. This leads to Hypothyroidism. It is important to question your doctor about any drug that you take to understand its components and side effects.
- Thyroid surgery is one of the causes of hypothyroidism. If a portion of the thyroid gland has been removed, it leaves the bulk of the work to be done by the remaining portion. The thyroid gland may not perform effectively after surgery to produce enough thyroid hormone for a healthy metabolism.
- Malfunctioning thyroid If your thyroid has been surgically removed has swellings or is just experiencing malfunctioning, it is most likely that the production of thyroid hormones will be inhibited in one way or another. This is one of the causes of hypothyroidism.
- Over-response to hyperthyroidism treatment Hyperthyroidism is the condition whereby the thyroid is overactive and thus produces too much hormone. Treatment involves radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications. These can, at times, over correct the thyroid function and result in the production of the hormone in levels that are too low.
- Malfunctioning pituitary gland The pituitary gland is responsible for the production of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), which stimulates the production of thyroid hormones. This, therefore, means that if the pituitary gland is malfunctioning, the production of thyroid hormones is also interfered with. This then results in hypothyroidism.
- Congenital disease Some babies can be born with malfunctioning or damaged thyroid glands; while others are born with no thyroid gland at all. This is detected with thyroid screening when a baby is born since such babies appear normal at birth.
- Hypothalamus disorder is very rare and occurs when low levels of THR are produced by the hypothalamus in the brain. TRS release is effected by the TRH.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism
- Sensitivity to cold is increased
- A hoarse voice
- Weight gain
- Elevated blood cholesterol level
- Puffy face
- Dry skin
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
- Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
- Hair becoming thin
- Slower heart rate
- Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
- Impaired memory
- Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
Complications brought on by hypothyroidism
Goiter is a condition that is characterized by a large swelling on your throat, as a result of the enlargement of the thyroid gland. This occurs when the thyroid gland has to be constantly pushed to produce more thyroids.
Peripheral neuropathy Peripheral nerves are responsible for relaying information from the spinal cord and the brain to other parts of the body. Prolonged untreated hypothyroidism can damage these nerves and lead to peripheral neuropathy; a condition characterized by numbness, tingling, and pain in the areas that are affected.
Infertility Hypothyroidism is also known to interfere with ovulation, which can lead to infertility. This is because thyroid hormones play a role in ovulation and their production in low quantities or lack thereof can alter the normal reproduction body functions.
Heart problems A person with a thyroid that is underactive is more at risk of having heart failure and heart disease than one with a healthy thyroid that is functioning properly. This is because Low-Density Lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL) can occur more in people with malfunctioning thyroid.
Mental health issues Hypothyroidism is a result of hormonal imbalance. Moods and stress are related to hormonal imbalance; which is why people who suffer from hypothyroidism tend to suffer from bouts of depression. It also leads to slowed mental functioning.
Myxedema Long-term undiagnosed hypothyroidism is very dangerous as it can lead to myxedema, which is life-threatening. This rare condition is characterized by drowsiness, intolerance to extremely cold temperatures, lethargy, and unconsciousness.
Birth defects Children that are born with thyroid problems have lower chances of survival if left untreated as compared to those who are born with functioning thyroid. Also, children whose mothers suffered from hypothyroidism are more likely to have birth defects and suffer from mental and physical defects.
Diagnosis of hypothyroidism
Blood testing is the only sure way of diagnosing hypothyroidism. The tests measure the level of TSH and can follow up with a test for the thyroid hormone, thyroxine. Doctors will make decisions based on your blood tests which will provide information on how to progress with medication or other treatments.
You can make conclusions from the symptoms felt or seen, but there are numerous conditions with similar symptoms. Thyroid experts recommend blood testing.