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Endocrinology (Diabetes and Metabolism) >
The thyroid hormone is important in establishing the correct level of energy usage. Too low levels may cause your body to slow down.
Marshfield Clinic Endocrinologists diagnose and treat all conditions and diseases of the endocrine system.
Hypothyroidism is the most common type of thyroid disorder. It means your thyroid gland is not active enough. This tiny gland is found in the front of your neck. Its job is to make thyroid hormone.
If the gland is underactive, it may not make enough thyroid hormone.
Thyroid hormones control how your body uses energy. They affect almost every organ in your body.
When your thyroid doesn’t make enough of these hormones, parts of your body slow down.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disorder. This means your immune system starts to attack itself. It makes antibodies against the thyroid gland. Another cause may be treatment for an overactive thyroid gland. That may include radioactive iodine therapy or surgery.
A condition called secondary hypothyroidism can also sometimes happen. It’s when your pituitary gland stops working. The pituitary gland then no longer tells the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones.
Newborns are tested at birth for hypothyroidism. This condition must be treated immediately. It can affect a baby’s brain and nervous system.
You may be more likely to have hypothyroidism if you:
Are a woman
Are older than age 60
Have had thyroid problems or thyroid surgery in the past
Have a family history of thyroid problems
Have certain conditions, such as type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis
Have Turner syndrome, a genetic condition that affects women
Are pregnant or have had a baby within the past 6 months
Have an iodine deficiency. Your body needs iodine to make thyroid hormone.
Symptoms are different for each person. They are usually hard to notice and start slowly. They may be mistaken for symptoms of depression. Here are the most common symptoms and signs:
Dull facial expressions
Being cold bothers you
Puffy and swollen face
Sparse, coarse, and dry hair
Coarse, dry, and thickened skin
Hand tingling or pain (carpal tunnel syndrome)
Sides of eyebrows thin or fall out
Increased or irregular menstrual flow in women
These symptoms may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:
Your age, overall health, and past health
How sick you are
How well you can handle certain medicines, treatments, or therapies
How long the condition is expected to last
Your opinion or preference
If your hypothyroidism is not treated, these complications may happen:
Low body temperature
Tell your healthcare provider if your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms. If you are a woman of childbearing age and want to become pregnant, talk with your healthcare provider first.
Hypothyroidism means your thyroid gland is underactive. It isn’t making enough thyroid hormone. The most common cause is when your immune system starts to attack itself. It makes antibodies against the thyroid gland.
Symptoms include dull facial expressions, tiredness, and weight gain.
Blood tests can help diagnose this condition. They can measure the amount of thyroid hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormones in your blood.
The goal of treatment is to return your levels of thyroid hormone back to normal.
Untreated hypothyroidism may lead to anemia, low body temperature, and heart failure.
Treatment may include medicine that replaces lost thyroid hormones. You usually will need to take thyroid hormones for the rest of your life.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
If this is a medical emergency, call 911.
(Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.)
If you have diabetes, taking steps right away to control it will help you avoid complications that may come up later. This multiple-choice quiz will help you with important answers now. It is based on information from the American Diabetes Association, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and the CDC.