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Fatigued or Full Throttle: Is Your Thyroid to Blame?

Understanding Thyroid Problems -- Symptoms and Treatments
(continued)

What Is an Underactive Thyroid?

Hypothyroidism, by contrast, stems from an underproduction of thyroid hormones. Since your body's energy production requires certain amounts of thyroid hormones, a drop in hormone production leads to lower energy levels, causing you to feel weak and tired.

Approximately 25 million people suffer with hypothyroidism and about half are undiagnosed. Older adults -- particularly women -- are more likely to develop hypothyroidism than younger adults. Hypothyroidism also tends to run in families.

If hypothyroidism is not treated, it can raise your cholesterol levels and make you more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. During pregnancy, untreated hypothyroidism can harm your baby. Luckily, hypothyroidism is easy to treat.

Causes of hypothyroidism may include:

Hashimoto's thyroiditis: In this autoimmune disorder, the body attacks thyroid tissue. The tissue eventually dies and stops producing hormones. Other autoimmune disorders occur with this condition and other family members may also be affected by this condition.

Removal of the thyroid gland: The thyroid may be surgically removed or chemically destroyed as treatment for hyperthyroidism.

Exposure to excessive amounts of iodide: The heart medicine amiodarone may expose you to too much iodine. Radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism can also result in hypothyroidism. You may be at greater risk for developing hypothyroidism, especially if you have had thyroid problems in the past.

Lithium: This drug has also been linked as a cause of hypothyroidism.

If left untreated for a long period of time, hypothyroidism can bring on a myxedema coma, a rare but potentially fatal condition that requires immediate hormone injections.

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