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Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism continued...

Babies with hypothyroidism may have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they can include:

  • Cold hands and feet
  • Constipation
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Hoarse cry
  • Little or no growth
  • Low muscle tone (floppy infant)
  • Persistent jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
  • Poor feeding habits
  • Puffy face
  • Stomach bloating
  • Swollen tongue

Make an appointment with your health care provider if you or your baby has any of these symptoms. It is important to note that these symptoms can be due to other medical conditions.

How Is Hypothyroidism Diagnosed?

If you have symptoms of hypothyroidism, your doctor will order blood tests to check hormone levels. These may include:

  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
  • T4 (thyroxine)

Lower-than-normal T4 levels usually mean you have hypothyroidism. However, some people may have increased TSH levels while having normal T4 levels. This is called subclinical (mild) hypothyroidism. It is believed to be an early stage of hypothyroidism.

If your test results or physical exam of the thyroid are abnormal, your doctor may order a thyroid ultrasound, or thyroid scan, to check for nodules or inflammation.

How Is Hypothyroidism Treated?

If you have hypothyroidism, your doctor will prescribe a synthetic (man-made) thyroid hormone T4. You take this pill every day. Certain other medications can interfere with how your body absorbs synthetic thyroid hormone. Make sure you doctor knows about all the medicines, herbs, and supplements you take, including over-the-counter products.

You will need regular blood tests to check your thyroid hormone levels. Your doctor may need to adjust your medication dose from time to time.

Complications of Hypothyroidism

Untreated, hypothyroidism may cause:

  • Heart problems
  • Infertility
  • Joint pain
  • Obesity

Thyroid problems in a pregnant woman can affect the developing baby. During the first three months of pregnancy, the baby receives all thyroid hormone from its mother. If the mother has hypothyroidism, the baby does not get enough thyroid hormone. This can lead to problems with mental development.

Extremely low levels of thyroid hormone can cause a life-threatening condition called myxedema. Myxedema is the most severe form of hypothyroidism. A person with myxedema can lose consciousness or go into a coma. The condition can also cause the body temperature to drop very low, which can cause death.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on June 16, 2013
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