This topic provides
information about hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism means your thyroid is not
making enough thyroid hormone. If you are looking for information about when
the thyroid makes too much thyroid hormone, see the topic
Hypothyroidism means your
thyroid is not making enough
thyroid hormone. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped
gland in the front of your neck. It makes hormones that control the way your
body uses energy.
Having a low level of thyroid hormone affects your
whole body. It can make you feel tired and weak. If hypothyroidism is not
treated, it can raise your
cholesterol levels. During pregnancy, untreated hypothyroidism can
harm your baby. But hypothyroidism can be treated with medicine that can help you feel like yourself again.
of any age can get hypothyroidism, but older adults are more likely to get it.
Women age 60 and older have the highest risk. You are more likely to get the
disease if it runs in your family.
In the United States,
the most common cause is
Hashimoto's thyroiditis. It causes the body's
immune system to attack thyroid tissue. As a result,
the gland can't make enough thyroid hormone.
Other things that
can lead to low levels of thyroid hormone include surgery to remove the thyroid
gland and radiation therapy for cancer. Less common causes include viral
infections and some drugs, such as amiodarone and lithium.
Hypothyroidism can cause
many different symptoms, such as:
- Feeling tired, weak, or
- Dry skin and brittle nails.
- Not being able
to stand the cold.
- Memory problems or
having trouble thinking clearly.
- Heavy or irregular
Symptoms occur slowly over time. At first you might not
notice them, or you might mistake them for normal aging. See your doctor if you
have symptoms like these that get worse or won't go away.
Your doctor will
ask questions about your symptoms. You will also have a physical exam. If your
doctor thinks you have hypothyroidism, a simple blood test can show if your
thyroid hormone level is too low.
Doctors usually prescribe pills to treat hypothyroidism. Most people start to feel better
in a week or two. Your symptoms will probably go away within a few months.
But you will likely need to keep taking the pills from now on.
It's important to take your medicine just the way your doctor
tells you to. You will also need to see your doctor for follow-up visits to
make sure you have the right dose. Getting too much or too little thyroid
hormone can cause problems.
If you have mild hypothyroidism, you
may not need treatment now. But you'll want to watch closely for signs that it
is getting worse.
If you are diagnosed with severe
hypothyroidism, you will need to be treated right away in the hospital. Severe
hypothyroidism can lead to a rare but dangerous disease called