Hypothyroidism: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment


Hypothyroidism, also called underactive thyroid, refers to a condition that the thyroid gland is not active enough and cannot produce enough thyroid hormones.

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland which is located in the lower front of the neck. The thyroid gland can make thyroid hormones which can help the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as usual.

Women, people with other thyroid problems and people over 60 years old are easier to develop hypothyroidism. Also, hypothyroidism is more common in women than in men. In America, about 4.6% of people who are not younger than 12 years old have hypothyroidism, even if most of the cases are mild.


Thyroid can produce triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) which great impact on people’s life. If the thyroid cannot produce enough hormones, hypothyroidism will occur. Many common causes of hypothyroidism include:

  • Autoimmune disease, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Radiation therapy to the neck area
  • Radioactive iodine treatment
  • Use of certain medications to treat heart problems, psychiatric conditions, and cancer which can sometimes affect the production of thyroid hormone
  • Thyroid surgery
  • Too little iodine in the diet
  • Pregnancy
  • Problems with the thyroid at birth (Congenital disease)
  • Pituitary gland damage or disorder
  • Disorder of the hypothalamus

Other risk factors may include:

  • Female gender
  • Age
  • Have a family history of thyroid disease
  • Prematurely graying hair
  • Race: white people and Asian people have a higher risk
  • Have been pregnant or delivered a baby within the past six months
  • Have autoimmune disorders such as  type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, Addison’s disease, pernicious anemia, or vitiligo
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Down syndrome
  • Turner syndrome


Depending on the severity of the hormone deficiency, symptoms are various. Many symptoms of hypothyroidism usually include:

  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle
  • Depression
  • Slow heart rate
  • Excessive sleep
  • Dry, thinning hair
  • Decreased sweating
  • Pale skin
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Muscle weakness
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Impaired memory
  • Unusual large tongue
  • Swelling near the navel (umbilical hernia)
  • Swelling of the skin (myxedema)
  • Swelling in the neck from an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)


Generally, doctors will diagnose hypothyroidism from your symptoms, medical history, and some tests. You should tell your doctors if you had thyroid surgery or radiation on your neck and if your family members have thyroid diseases. Then your doctors will order two blood tests to help diagnose, including:


Doctors usually recommend medications to restore adequate hormone, including:

Doctors need time to find the right dose of thyroid hormone. Based on the patient’s age, weight, healthy condition and medical history, the dose of hormones can vary. Some patients with hypothyroidism need to adjust the thyroid hormone doses carefully, including:

  • People over 60 years old
  • Pregnant women
  • Infants, children, and teenagers


Untreated hypothyroid may cause other conditions, including:

  • Heart problems
  • Mental health issues
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Myxedema
  • Infertility
  • Birth defects
  • Obesity

Please consult your doctors for your symptoms and treatment options.

Keywords: hypothyroidism; thyroid gland; thyroid hormones.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.