Often referred to as an underactive thyroid, hypothyroidism is a condition caused by your thyroid gland not producing enough of a hormone called thyroxine (T4). Whilst an underactive thyroid cannot be prevented, understanding the facts behind this condition is important.
Here thanks to Dr Malik at Harley Street GP we provide a complete guide to hypothyroidism so you can seek the treatment you need and reduce the symptoms associated with the condition to successfully improve your quality of life.
What causes an underactive thyroid?
In the majority of cases, hypothyroidism occurs when your own body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Your immune system will use the same defences it uses to attack foreign bodies entering your system, and due to this onslaught your gland will be unable to make enough of the hormone thyroxine. This particular hormone plays an important role within the body and ultimately ensures that your cells, tissues and wider body functions are working at the right pace.
An underactive thyroid can also be caused by a patient undergoing previous treatment for either an overactive thyroid or thyroid cancer. Those who have been through such treatment may experience hypothyroidism as a side effect. Treatment that can cause hypothyroidism includes surgery or radioactive iodine therapy.
Hypothyroidism can also be caused by a lack of iodine in the body or an issue with the pituitary gland, however these causes are significantly less common.
Who’s at risk?
As we’ve mentioned earlier, hypothyroidism is one condition that cannot be prevented, however, whilst men and women can both be affected, an underactive thyroid is more common in women. Hypothyroidism can also be seen in newborn babies. Congenital hypothyroidism affects 1 in 4,000 babies in the UK and is usually diagnosed with the heel-prick blood test at around five days old.
What symptoms should I look out for?
As with many conditions, symptoms of hypothyroidism may vary from person to person, but in all cases symptoms tend to show themselves gradually meaning diagnosis often takes place years later. If you have hypothyroidism you may experience:
- Temperature sensitivity
- Unexplained weight gain
- Lack of sexual appetite
- Muscle weakness and cramps
- Pins and needles in the hands
- Heavy or irregular menstruation
Symptoms can also vary depending on the age of the patient, with elderly people with an underactive thyroid more likely to experience memory loss and depression. Children with hypothyroidism may develop more slowly whilst teenagers may go through puberty much earlier than those who don’t have hypothyroidism.
When should I seek medical assistance?
Thyroid tests can be used to diagnose hypothyroidism or an overactive thyroid, known medically as hyperthyroidism.
A thyroid test can be administered quickly, easily and affordably at a private clinic, in fact, all that is needed is a simple blood test. Whilst you may face a long wait for your result when undergoing testing at an NHS practice, private thyroid testing ensures you can receive the results the same day and start any necessary treatment immediately. A full consultation will also be given to ensure you have the medication and guidance you need to relieve the symptoms associated with hypothyroidism.