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Hypothyroidism is a common treatable medical condition. This condition occurs when the thyroid doesn't create and release the required thyroid hormone in the bloodstream. Hypothyroidism makes your thyroid underactive and affects your metabolism to slow down. Common disease symptoms are feeling tired, being unable to bear cold temperatures, and gaining weight. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the main treatment for hypothyroidism.

Though it is not a life-threatening disease; however, it can become a serious and life-threatening medical condition without treatment. Hypothyroidism is also a life-long medical condition requiring regular medication, especially for those with low thyroid hormone levels. Easy treatment options are available to manage hypothyroidism.

This page covers the best information on hypothyroidism, its symptoms, causes, and prevention.

What is hypothyroidism?

Insufficient thyroid hormones in the bloodstream and low metabolism cause hypothyroidism. It happens when your thyroid gland doesn't create and release sufficient thyroid hormone in your body. Myxedema is a rare and extreme complication associated with hypothyroidism; it happens when the thyroid level decreases too low. Myxedema could be fatal, causing multiple organ abnormalities. It is a serious and life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment. The symptoms of myxedema include:

 Heart failure

Low body temperature




How does the thyroid work?

 Small in size, a thyroid gland looks like a butterfly-shaped organ located in your larynx (under the voice box of the neck). The main work of the thyroid is to control your metabolism. Metabolism transforms the food you eat into energy through which your body function. T4 and T3 are hormones that the thyroid creates to control metabolism. These hormones work in the body to tell body's cells to use the required energy; in other words, these hormones control your body's heart rate and temperature. Healthy thyroid glands constantly release hormones and produce new hormones to replace what's been used. This cycle keeps your metabolism functioning well in the body.

 The pituitary gland (also called hypophysis, a pea-sized gland located below the hypothalamus {hypothalamus is a base of your brain}) controls the thyroid hormones in the bloodstream. The pituitary gland adjusts its TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level and sends it back to the thyroid to balance hormone amount when it senses either a lack of thyroid hormone or too much.

The entire body gets affected if the amount of thyroid hormones are too high (hyperthyroidism) or too low (hypothyroidism).


Who can get affected by hypothyroidism? 

People of all ages and genders can be affected by hypothyroidism; however, it is a more common medical condition in women after menopause.

Difference between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism

The main difference between both is the quantity. The thyroid makes less hormone in hypothyroidism; on the other hand person with hyperthyroidism makes too much thyroid hormone.

Hypothyroidism slows down your metabolism, whereas, in the case of hyperthyroidism, it speeds up your metabolism. Many things fall opposite between these two conditions, such as you may have difficulty dealing with a cold if you have hypothyroidism, and you may not be able to handle the heat in case of hyperthyroidism. The right treatment can enable your thyroid gland to function well in both conditions.

What causes hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism can cause primarily low levels of thyroid hormones and secondary failure of the work of the pituitary gland; however, the primary condition is much more common as this could be hereditary.

The other causes of hypothyroidism include:

Thyroid inflammation (also called thyroiditis), in some cases, thyroiditis can happen after pregnancy or in viral illness.

Hyperthyroidism treatment (surgical or radiation removal of the thyroid)

Hereditary condition

Iodine deficiency


1. It is important to manage thyroid levels during pregnancy; thyroid hormones are important for fetal development as they help develop a brain and nervous system. Untreated hypothyroidism during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage or preterm labor.

2. The medication dosage may increase if you are on birth control pills; a doctor consultation helps you know the right dosage and method to consume birth control pills if you have a thyroid disease.

3. Hypothyroidism can cause low testosterone levels due to hormonal imbalance. In some cases, the connection between erectile dysfunction (ED) and untreated hypothyroidism has been reported.

Common symptoms of hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism symptoms usually develop slowly over time-sometimes years. The common symptoms include: 

Feeling fatigued (tired) and depressed.

Weight gain

Experiencing numbness and tingling in hands

Experiencing soreness, decreased sexual interest

Change in voice or physical change in the face (like dropping eyelids or eye puffiness)

Menstrual issues

Abnormal blood cholesterol level, unable to tolerate cold temperatures

Experiencing dry, coarse skin and hair

Feeling difficulty in recall

Diagnoses of hypothyroidism 

A blood test called TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is an ideal way to diagnose hypothyroidism. It can be difficult to diagnose this condition without a test because the symptoms can easily be confused with other health conditions. Sometimes, a doctor may perform a physical examination if a thyroid is enlarged. He may also ask you for a blood test to check Hashimoto's disease (an autoimmune disorder).

How to treat hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a manageable disease with a specific medicine. When your thyroid gland cannot release the sufficient hormone, medication can help make those hormones in most cases. The common oral medication named Levothyroxine/Thyroxine has a good success rate of treating hypothyroidism in most patients. This medication increases the thyroid hormones your body produces; however it is important to take this medicine regularly to normalize the number of hormones in your body for to rest of your life. Follow your doctor's advice and prescription medications to treat thyroid issues. In rare cases, it is also found that hypothyroidism is treatable with certain asanas or exercises, but no pieces of evidence are available.

How does untreated hypothyroidism act?

Untreated hypothyroidism can become a serious and life-threatening disease without proper treatment. The symptoms can become more severe, including:

Trouble in breathing

Heart issues

Developing mental health issues

Developing enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)

Unable to maintain normal body temperature

Developing myxedema (refer above about this condition)

Is hypothyroidism can be prevented?

Hypothyroidism is an unprevented medical condition. Timely doctor consultation and following treatment is the only prevention to control the symptoms.

Best food to eat for hypothyroidism

In the western diet, most food contains iodine (a mineral that helps a thyroid gland to produce hormones). Eat food rich in iodine to boost your hormone level. The most reliable way that increases hormone levels is a prescription medication. Consult a doctor/nutritionist for the best diet/ meal plan to treat hypothyroidism. Food high in iodine includes dairy products, eggs, edible seaweed, meat, poultry, seafood and iodized salt.

Note - Do not consume too much iodine because the effect can be paradoxical.

Can hypothyroidism go away on its own? 

If you are temporarily affected by hypothyroidism symptoms, they can fade over time or go away as soon as you start treatment. For example, in some cases with high diabetes, you may experience hypothyroidism symptoms, but as your diabetes gets controlled, the symptoms go away on their own. Talk to your doctor to know more about this.

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