Hypothyroidism is a very common condition in which the body’s production of thyroid hormone is below normal. Thyroid hormone affects metabolism, and its deficiency causes many of the body’s functions to slow down. An estimated 3 to 5 percent of the population suffers from hypothyroidism, and another 17 percent may be undiagnosed. It is more common among women than men, particularly those over age 40.
The thyroid gland, which is located in the lower part of the neck, uses iodine (found in foods such as iodized salt, seafood and vegetables) to produce thyroid hormones. The two most important ones are thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). T3 accounts for more than 99 percent of the thyroid hormones present in the blood stream that affects the metabolism of cells. Several other hormones regulate the amount of thyroid hormone normally released into the bloodstream. Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), released by the hypothalamus, sends signals to the pituitary gland to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH in turn “tells” the thyroid gland to release the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. Under normal conditions, TSH regulates the amount of thyroid hormone in the blood to allow for normal functioning. In a hypothyroid patient, on the other hand, TSH levels fall as the pituitary attempts to decrease thyroid hormone production. As a result, hypothyroid patients continuously have decreased blood levels of circulating thyroid hormone.
How does hypothyroidism develop?
Causes of hypothyroidism include congenital defects, surgical removal of the thyroid gland, irradiation of the thyroid gland, inflammatory conditions and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an inherited autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks and damages the thyroid tissue, is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. It is eight times more common among women than men.
Lymphocytic thyroiditis, another type of inflammation of the thyroid, is caused by white blood cells called lymphocytes. This condition is common after pregnancy, affecting up to 8 percent of women. The initial phase of lymphocytic thyroiditis is normally caused by an excessive amount of thyroid hormone leaking from an inflamed thyroid gland, followed by a hypothyroid state that can last up to six months. Although most women eventually return to a normal state of thyroid functioning, some may remain hypothyroid.
Radioactive treatments for an overactive thyroid gland, or hyperthyroidism, which is a component of Grave’s disease, can also lead to hypothyroidism. Insufficient dietary iodine, which is essential for the production of thyroid hormones, can also be a cause. However, this is very uncommon in developed countries. Finally, other medications used to treat hyperthyroid conditions, psychiatric drugs and drugs containing large amounts of iodine may also cause hypothyroidism by decreasing the levels of thyroid hormones in the blood.
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
The symptoms of hypothyroidism vary in severity, usually develop slowly over the course of a month or even years, and may initially go unnoticed. They include weakness; fatigue; constipation; depression; joint or muscle pain; thin, brittle nails; dry, flaky and thickening skin; slow speech; weight gain; hoarseness; intolerance to cold; swelling of the face; puffy eyes; generalized hair thinning; among women, heavy and/or abnormal menstrual periods; short stature; and delayed formation or absence of teeth. In addition, some individuals may develop a swollen neck due to an enlarged thyroid.
At Sunridge Medical, our highly-trained physicians are experts in providing an integrated approach to the treatment of cancer and chronic disease. Our treatment plans are individualized, and involve both traditional and alternative medicines.
The physicians at Sunridge Medical have found that symptoms frequently can be improved and even reversed with our natural treatments. We take a holistic approach to patient care and strive not only treat the disease, but also alleviate symptoms, increase quality of life and, most importantly, address the underlying cause of disease.
For answers to your questions or to make an appointment, call us toll-free at 800-923-7878 to speak with a Patient Care Representative. Let us help you get your life back.