What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not secrete enough thyroid hormone. This hormone affects the body’s metabolic processes. Hypothyroidism can be caused by diseases of the gland itself, as well as other diseases that can affect it. Women are more likely to suffer from hypothyroidism than men, especially as they age. Low levels of thyroid hormone slow down the metabolism and increase the risk of other diseases such as cardiovascular diseases or pregnancy problems.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms and their severity vary depending on the duration and level of thyroid hormone secretion. People with hypothyroidism may have the following complaints:

  • Weakness;
  • General weakness;
  • Intolerance to cold;
  • Muscle pains and spasms;
  • Constipation;
  • Weight gain and difficulty trying to maintain weight;
  • Goiter – enlargement of the thyroid gland;
  • Dry and rough skin;
  • Hair becomes thinner or hair loss begins;
  • Swelling of the face and eyes;
  • Deep or hoarse voice;
  • Increased size of tongue;
  • Irregular or painful periods;
  • Depression;
  • Memory loss;
  • Increased blood cholesterol levels;
  • Difficulties with mental activity.

What are the causes?

  • Autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) – this is a hereditary disease is the most the common cause of hypothyroidism in the elderly. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland. This leads to its enlargement or goiter and its progressive destruction.
  • Subacute thyroiditis – inflammation of the thyroid gland after a viral disease or after pregnancy. This disease usually occurs in two phases – in the first phase, there is hyperfunction of the thyroid gland, and in the second, thyroid hormone secretion is reduced. Eventually, the function of the gland normalizes. The three types of subacute thyroiditis are:

– Subacute granulomatous thyroiditis, also called painful thyroiditis;

– Subacute painless thyroiditis, which goes more unnoticed, is also called lymphocytic thyroiditis.

– After puerperal thyroiditis;

  • Previous thyroid treatment – ​​surgical removal of the gland may be used to remove nodules, hyperthyroidism or other conditions. Treating hyperthyroidism with radioactive iodine destroys thyroid tissue and this also leads to hypothyroidism.
  • Some drugs can also alter thyroid function such as lithium and amiodarone.

Treatment of hypothyroidism

Treatment requires long-term therapy except for certain diseases or conditions.

Treatment with levothyroxine

Most people are treated with one of the synthetic forms of T4 thyroid hormone. This is the more stable form of thyroid hormone and requires a single dose each day, while medications containing T3, the most active thyroid hormone, are much shorter-acting and must be taken several times a day. Synthetic T4 hormone is easily converted in the blood to T3 hormone, and this conversion is regulated by the body’s tissues. It is recommended that the treatment be carried out with the same brand of drugs containing levothyroxine.

In people already on levothyroxine therapy, thyroid hormone levels should be monitored every 4 to 6 weeks to assess whether an increase in the daily dose is necessary. Other substitutes for thyroid hormones are possible, for example bovine thyroid gland extract.

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