What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothroidism just as the name sounds is derived from words hypo (underperforming) thyroidism (origin- from the throid). Hypothyroidism simply means underperforming or under-reactive thyroid gland. This is a disorder of the body’s endocrine system, which is characterized by inadequate production of thyroid hormone in the body.

Some of the commonest hypothyroidism symptoms are slow pulse rate and swelling of the limbs.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism
Symptoms of hypothyroidism

Common hypothyroidism symptoms includes but not limited to fatigue, inability to withstand cold, weight gain and depression.

Newly born children also may have hypothyroidism, but the symptoms of underactive thyroid they exhibit are very different compared to adults. They may have normal weight and height at birth, however the following underactive thyroid symptoms could be noticeable in newborns

  • Drowsiness
  • Depleted muscle tone.
  • Constipation and digestive problems such as colic.
  • Low body temperatures.
  • Skin problems such as tongue enlargement.

Children with underactive thyroid glands may have trouble walking when due, delayed   as well as having delayed attention span, reduced muscle tone, squinting, and delayed tooth eruption.

In older children, symptoms of underactive thyroid includes fatigue, muscle weakness, body growth delay, coarse, thick skin, delayed puberty in girls, increased body hair, delayed growth, in few instances, underactive.

The most common cause of hypothyroidism is low dietary iodine supplements. It can also be caused by auto-immune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, this may however result in goitre. Other less common causes includes brain hypothalamus injury, previous radioactive iodine treatments among others.

According to a study, In Western countries, hypothyroidism occurs in 0.3–0.4% of people with about one billion people suffering from insufficient dietary iodine, but how it develops into hypothyroidism still remains idiopathic (unknown).

Hypothyroidism is common in women than men and it occurs in women at or above the age of 60 years.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism

The following symptoms of hypothyroidism are noticeable in patients diagnosed with low or under reactive thyroid gland:

  • Weight gain with poor diet.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Heavy menstrual periods in women.
  • Impaired hearing.

The following are signs of hypothyroidism, noticeable during clinical investigation.

  1. Pleural and pericardial effusion (these applies to the lungs and the heart external covering whereby fluids build up in the two organs, thus causing inabilities to use the lungs and the heart properly).
  2. Carpal tunnel syndrome. This is characterized by compression of the median nerve as it travels through the wrist at the carpal tunnel. Some of the symptoms attributed to Carpal tunnel syndrome are pain, numbness and extremities tingling especially in the thumb, index and middle finger.
  3. Frequent hair loss.
  4. Coldness at the extremities of the body- the fingers, and toes.
  5. Reflexes at the tendons do not relax promptly. This can be investigated further (via knee jerk reflex test) to determine the extent of hormonal deficit.
  6. Deposit of mucopolysaccharide under the skin.
  7. Another one of hypothyroidism symptoms that presents myxedema coma a very rare but life-threatening condition characterized by extremely low body temperature, mental confusion, slow heart rate, weak breathing and skin changes such as enlargement of the tongue.

Other symptoms of hypothyroidism

Other symptoms that may be shown in patients with underactive thyroid includes the following:

  • Impaired memory.
  • Stiffness in the joints.
  • Elevated cholesterol levels in the blood.
  • Puffy face. This is mostly noticeable in younger children.
  • Slow heart rate which will have impact on the pulse and blood pressure.
  • Frequent choking on foods is also very common in infants who are sufferers.

When you start feeling tired without any apparent cause, it is best to see your doctor as early as possible to determine the underlying causes, and to make early diagnosis so that proper medical treatment can commence.

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