Some people are more likely to develop thyroid disorders than others, and while It’s impossible to prevent thyroid disease, knowing the signs and symptoms can help you get a prompt diagnosis and treatment. Early detection is key to preventing complications and needless suffering.
Internal medicine physician Dr. Samuel I. Fink is devoted to helping you and the entire family maintain wellness. With extensive experience in preventive medicine, Dr. Fink partners with patients to prevent and manage a range of a full range of health conditions, including hypothyroidism.
Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland situated at the base of your neck. This mighty gland is part of the endocrine system and produces important hormones that your body needs to regulate various functions such as heart rate, body temperature, and energy production.
The thyroid has a major job to do, and it usually does it without any input on your part. However, thyroid failure can and does occur, and when it does, the thyroid is unable to produce enough hormone to meet your body’s needs.
Autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s disease) is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. In people with AT, the immune system produces antibodies against the thyroid. Over time, the ongoing attack on your thyroid prevents the gland from doing its job.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism causes a wide range of symptoms and can vary from person to person. Think of your body as a car and thyroid hormone as the gas for your car. Many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are associated with lack of energy production. Common symptoms include:
- Weight gain
- Problems concentrating
- Menstrual irregularities
- Hair loss
- Cold hands and feet
- Cold sensitivity
- Decreased libido
- Low mood
- Daytime sleepiness
If you have symptoms of hypothyroidism, discuss them with Dr. Fink.
Hypothyroidism risk factors
Some factors increase your likelihood of developing hypothyroidism. However, you may develop hypothyroidism with or without these risk factors. The more risk factors you have, the higher your chance of developing hypothyroidism. The following are common risk factors for thyroid failure:
- Gender: Women are more likely to develop hypothyroidism than men
- Age: Your risk of hypothyroidism increases with age
- Existing autoimmune disease: Having an autoimmune condition boosts your risk for hypothyroidism
- History of radiation: Radiation exposure to the neck increases your chance for thyroid disease
- Previous thyroid surgery: Any previous surgical procedure on the thyroid gland raises your risk of thyroid failure
- Family history of hypothyroidism: Having a close relative with hypothyroidism increases the chances that you will develop it, too
Having any of these risk factors does not mean you will automatically develop thyroid disease, but it’s good to be aware of them.
Diagnosing hypothyroidism is relatively straightforward. Dr. Fink orders a blood test that checks for key thyroid-related chemicals:
- Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH): The pituitary gland secretes this hormone to stimulate the thyroid gland to release its hormones. People with hypothyroidism have a higher than normal TSH level.
- Thyroxine: This is the main hormone produced by the thyroid; a low thyroxine level suggests hypothyroidism.
Dr. Fink may also check your blood for antibodies against the thyroid.
Treatment for hypothyroidism
Treating hypothyroidism involves replacing the hormone that your body lacks. Levothyroxine is the most common medication prescribed to treat hypothyroidism. It comes as a tablet or capsule and is usually taken once daily.
Dr. Fink rechecks your thyroid levels after 6-12 weeks and adjusts the dose until your thyroid hormone levels normalize, as indicated by a TSH level within the normal range. He may also check your level of thyroxine and liothyronine to ensure optimal treatment. Liothyronine is the active form of levothyroxine.
Seeking professional help for hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism can cause symptoms that are subtle and difficult for you to detect. If you suspect you’re having problems with your thyroid, it’s wise to undergo screening for thyroid disease.
For more information and for all of your primary care needs, call our Tarzana, California, office to schedule a visit, or request an appointment online.