A butterfly inside the base of your neck, with 2 wings laying each side of your windpipe. Right. That’s how your thyroid gland closely looks like. Although pretty small, yet, it virtually takes a mighty and most significant role in your body and influences the functions of the lifeline organs including the heart, brain, kidneys, liver and skin. When the thyroid gland functions properly and secretes the thyroid hormones as per the body’s demand, you are vitally healthy. When things go wrong and your thyroid gland doesn’t produce the required hormones, then it would slow down all your body functions. This condition is called HYPOTHYROIDISM. It’s the most common type of thyroid disease.
What it does?
Shortage of sufficient thyroid hormones in your body is identified as Hypothyroidism. What it does to your body? While ample thyroid hormones are not secreted from your thyroid gland, it can affect your overall health and well being. It not only slows down your physical bodily functions, it also affects your mental well being.
Can you prevent?
Thyroid disease is as common as diabetes and heart disease. Anyone can develop Hypothyroidism right from infants to adults. Preventing your body from under producing thyroid is unfortunately a hardly ever phenomenon.
What are the Signs & Symptoms?
The symptoms of hypothyroidism may become visible gradually over a period of time, months or years and sometimes these signs and symptoms can be so simple that you may not even make out that something is wrong and it’s easy to neglect.
As hypothyroidism comes with wide range of symptoms, the recommended way for you is to go for a blood test under a doctor’s opinion to measure the hormone levels and to diagnose the condition.
Common symptoms are:* Muscle & Joint aches
* Pervasive Fatigue
* Slow heart rate
* Increase in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels
* Mild anemia
* Reduced body temperature
* Cold intolerance
* Slowed mental functioning/ depression
* Drying /roughness of the skin
* Slowed hair growth
* Weight gain
* Lower libido and infertility
* Increased risk of miscarriage, heavy or irregular menstrual flow in women
* Erectile dysfunction and low sperm count in men
Prolonged and untreated hypothyroidism can inflict destruction to your entire body and may lead to the increased risk of heart disease, deafness and in very exceptional cases it can also cause myxedema coma, a critical loss of the brain function.
How do you diagnose?
The diagnosis is commonly made through blood test that measures the level of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) and Thyroxine (T4 - thyroid hormone). When thyroxine levels are comparatively low and TSH is at elevated levels, it indicates under active thyroid. It shows that your Pituitary gland (located at the base of the brain and responsible for TSH production) produces more TSH in an attempt to stimulate your thyroid gland to churn out more thyroid hormones.
What causes hypothyroidism?
The most common reason of hypothyroidism is the effect of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis which is an autoimmune disorder. Hashimoto’s makes your body to produce antibodies that attack and damage your thyroid gland. There are also many other variety of factors that causes under active thyroid which includes:* If anyone in your family is with a thyroid problem
* Damaged pituitary gland
* Down’s Syndrome
* Turner’s Syndrome
* Radiation therapy in the neck area while treating cancers
* Treatment for hyperthyroidism may cause low thyroid
* Thyroid surgery and removal of thyroid gland gives rise to hypothyroidism
* Too little iodine in the diet
How it is treated?
Doctors would prescribe you a pill which contains synthetic (man-made) thyroid hormone (Thyroxine -T4) which you are expected to take it on an empty stomach in the morning, through your life time. Periodical blood tests will be taken to monitor the levels and it may be a long process to establish the proper dosage and once it is achieved, this method is by and large very successful in treating hypothyroid.
However, over dosage of thyroxine may result in side-effects which could lead to diarrhea, development of hyperthyroid and sometimes increased risk of development of osteoporosis.
Does Nutritional plans help Hypothyroid?
Definitely Yes! Foods that are rich in Iodine, Selenium, Zinc, Copper, Iron, and B Vitamins help your thyroid gland stay healthy and work properly. Your doctor may refer you to a dietitian who can in turn help you with a tailor-made nutritional plan and an exercise routine to stay hale and healthy.