Hypothyroidism (patient information)
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Hypothyroidism On the Web
Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. ; Associate Editor(s)-In-Chief: Jinhui Wu, M.D.
Hypothyroidism is a disorder in which the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. Some factors, such as Hashimoto’s disease, thyroiditis, surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid gland and radiation therapy of the thyroid may be associated with the cause of hypothyroidism. Usual symptoms include fatigue and weakness, weight gain, puffy face, cold intolerance, constipation and bradycardia. It may result in infertility in adults. Blood tests of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level and T4 level are very important for the diagnosis of hypothyroidism. Thyroid hormone replacement therapy is the main treatment.
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism varies from person to person. Usual symptoms are the following:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Weight gain
- Puffy face
- Cold intolerance
- Joint and muscle pain
- Irregular menstrual periods in women
Who is at highest risk?
- Hashimoto’s disease
- Congenital hypothyroidism
- Surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid gland
- Radiation therapy of the thyroid
- Some medications, such as amiodarone, propylthiouracil, methimazole and Lithium.
- Age over 50 years
- Laboratory tests of determination thyroid function, including serum thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and T4 test.
- TSH test: This test is the most accurate measure of thyroid function. General speaking, a TSH reading above normal means a person has hypothyroidism and a reading below normal means a person has hyperthyroidism.
- T4 test: This test measures the actual amount of circulating thyroid hormone in the blood. In hypothyroidism, the level of T4 in the blood is lower than normal.
- Blood tests: In patients with congenital hypothyroidism, the tests may demonstrate anemia on a complete blood count, increased cholesterol levels, increased liver enzymes, increased prolactin and low sodium.
- X-ray test: A chest x-ray may show an enlarged heart in patients with congenital hypothyroidism.
When to seek urgent medical care?
Call your health care provider if symptoms of hypothyroidism appear. If you experience either of the following symptoms, seeking urgent medical care as soon as possible.
The purpose of treatment is to replace the lacking thyroid hormone. Levothyroxine is the most commonly used medication. When you are taking thyroid hormone medications, the following things are important to remember:
- Lifelong therapy is needed. Do NOT stop taking the medication when you feel better. Continue taking the medication under your doctor's direction.
- Tell your doctor when you want to change brands of thyroid medicine. Different brands of thyroid medicine may affect your blood level of thyroid hormone.
- Tell your dietary habits to the doctor, because some foods may also change your blood level of thyroid hormone.
- Attention drugs interaction: Thyroid medicine may work best on an empty stomach and when taken 1 hour before any other medications. Do NOT take thyroid hormone with calcium, iron, multivitamins, alumin hydroxide antacids, colestipol, or other medicines that bind bile acids, or fiber supplements.
- Tell your doctor if you have any symptoms of hyperthyroidism, such as restlessness or shakiness, sweating or rapid weight loss. Your doctor will check your blood levels of thyroid hormone and change the the dosage of your medication.
Diseases with similar symptoms
Where to find medical care for hypothyroidism?
Directions to Hospitals Treating hypothyroidism
Prevention of hypothyroidism
The prevention for hypothyroidism is unknown.
What to expect (Outook/Prognosis)?
Prognosis of hypothyroidism depends on:
- Whether the patient is treated or not. In most cases, thyroid levels return to with proper treatment.
- Whether the complication such as myxedema coma appears, which may result in death.
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