Hypothyroidism, or commonly referred to as underactive thyroid, is the opposite of hyperthyroidism in which the thyroid overproduces thyroid hormone for an abnormal amount of time. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped, tiny gland at the front of the neck. The function of the thyroid is to make hormones that will regulate your metabolism and the growth of cells. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid does not produce sufficient hormones to properly regulate these functions.
The most common causes of hypothyroidism are exposure to radioactive substances such as a CT scan, x-ray, or treatment with high levels of radiation during a surgical procedure. Other causes can include an autoimmune disorder such as Graves’ Disease or an iodine deficiency, which can cause inadequate production of the thyroid hormone. In addition, underdevelopment or immature thyroid or an organ that produces too little hormone can cause hypothyroidism. Complications from radioactive substances can be avoided if you get a Thyroid Panel test before radiation treatment.
Most doctors try to diagnose hypothyroidism by monitoring the symptoms. Blood tests are used to measure thyroid hormone production, but this test is not sensitive enough to detect small amounts of subtle changes in your hormone levels. Therefore, it is not accurate enough to determine whether you are hypothyroid or not. Blood tests can tell your doctor whether your thyroid hormone production is slowing down or not, but they cannot tell you specifically what is wrong. Only your doctor can do that with an advanced laboratory test called Computerized Tomography or CTS.
Computerized Tomography (CT) tests are designed to pinpoint where in your body your thyroid function is most imbalanced. A radiation oncologist may need to perform additional tests to pinpoint the problem. The goal of these tests is to help your doctor determine if you are indeed suffering from hypothyroidism and to know how and if treatment will be needed. For instance, if the symptoms are accompanied by weight gain, your doctor may need to perform blood tests to see if it is hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
Many times, the symptoms of hypothyroidism are mild, such as fatigue, constipation, and joint aches. However, in some cases, many symptoms of hypothyroidism can be intense and debilitating, such as memory loss, extreme sleepiness, and hot flashes. The cause of your fatigue and other symptoms can be difficult to diagnose and can mimic many other diseases as well. Therefore, if you experience unexplained weight loss, fatigue, and other physical ailments, go to your doctor immediately.
One of the most common complications of untreated hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease that involves the body’s immune system attacking the thyroid. Because the thyroid functions to produce the hormone T4, an excess of this hormone can cause swelling of the thyroid which is often accompanied by painful nodules and inflammation. Because it is an autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s can be controlled but left untreated can result in serious complications including cancer.
There are many forms of hypothyroidism treatment. Doctors may prescribe synthetic hormone replacement drugs such as Levothyroxine, or they may recommend a course of one of the more conventional ways of treating hypothyroidism. In recent years, the medical community has been focusing more on natural treatments and hypothyroidism medicine. This type of treatment can include taking herbs like wild yam or other supplements containing iodine, eating less sugar or iodine, and even using a different thyroid hormone medicine altogether. Of course, you should always talk to your doctor before deciding on a course of treatment for hypothyroidism.
One of the most common forms of treatment for hypothyroidism is called medicating. Taking medication for hypothyroidism can have serious side effects so you should always consult your doctor before you start taking any form of medication. One of the most common meds used for treating this condition is Levothyroxine. Levothyroxine is a synthetic form of the hormone thyroxine, a by-product of the thyroid. This medication is given in tablet form and is usually prescribed to people who need to take high doses of synthetic hormones for medical purposes.