How to Identify Hypothyroidism
The thyroid gland is a small organ located in your neck. It is responsible for secreting a group of hormones which are responsible for regulating the metabolism in your body. Thyroid hormones have many functions and affect a wide variety of organ systems. In order for your metabolism to function properly, it is important to have the proper amount of thyroid hormone circulating in your system. Too little thyroid hormone causes a condition known as hypothyroidism.
The thyroid gland is controlled by hormonal signals coming from the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is a small organ located in the base of your brain. If the pituitary gland is no longer able to send the proper signals to the thyroid for production of thyroid hormone, your body will not produce sufficient quantities of thyroid hormones. In addition to signaling problems from the pituitary, hypothyroidism can be caused by taking certain medications. Some medical procedures can damage the thyroid gland as well.
Hypothyroidism can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Many different organ systems will be affected by a deficiency of thyroid hormones. The severity of the symptoms, and the extent to which they affect your body, will depend on exactly how much thyroid hormone your body is lacking. A slight deficiency in thyroid hormones will cause minor symptoms, whereas a severe deficiency will cause the symptoms of hypothyroidism to be much more significant. Many of the symptoms seen in hypothyroidism are very nonspecific and can be difficult to distinguish from other medical conditions.
As a general rule, lack of thyroid hormone will cause various elements of your metabolism to slow down. Your heart rate will be decreased. In addition, the heart will not contract as strongly as it did before. This will make a person feel weak and unable to exercise properly. Hypothyroidism can also cause a rise in blood pressure, and an increase in your cholesterol levels.
A person with hypothyroidism will often have very dry and thickened skin. The amount of sweat you produce will decrease. Hair on the body becomes thin, and can fall out in some cases. It is not unusual for a person with hypothyroidism to lose their eyebrows.
Weight gain is a commonly seen symptom of hypothyroidism. A person will also experience a lack of tolerance to cold weather.
Hypothyroidism can affect your respiratory system in many ways. The muscles which you use to breathe will become weaker, affecting your ability to breathe properly. This overlaps with the cardiovascular effects, causing a person to become chronically fatigued and short of breath. Exercise will become extremely difficult, as a person will tire rapidly.
Hypothyroidism can affect or gastrointestinal tract as well. In keeping with the general theme of a decrease in your body’s metabolism, your gut will slow down. Constipation becomes a common symptom in people with hypothyroidism.
Women with hypothyroidism can see alterations in their menstrual cycle. Significantly lowered levels of thyroid hormone can produce irregular periods. Periods will often become hard to predict. They can also become heavier than normal. Due to the irregularities with the menstrual cycle caused by hypothyroidism, becoming pregnant can be quite difficult.
Hypothyroidism is a reasonably common condition in many people. Fortunately, there are easy treatments available to correct this hormonal imbalance. In addition, your doctor has simple tests available to determine the level of your thyroid function. If you suspect that you may be suffering from a thyroid hormone imbalance, make an appointment to talk to your doctor.