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Did you know that thyroid is the only gland in the human body which is slightly bigger in females than in males (all other glands in males and females are of equal sizes)? Hypothyroidism affects more women worldwide than men and there are over 250 million people who are affected worldwide by hypothyroidism. So what is hypothyroidism? This is a common medical condition which arises because of low production of thyroid hormones or reduced activity of thyroid gland. Thyroid produces two main hormones: T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). Hypothyroidism is primarily caused when T3 and T4 productions are reduced. When one tests for hypothyroidism, we often find that the results show that T3 and T4 levels are normal. However, another hormone called TSH or Thyroid Stimulating Hormone has higher levels than usual. So what is the reason behind it? TSH is produced in a gland called pituitary gland which is present in our brain. As the name suggests, TSH is produced to stimulate the production of T3 and T4. So when T3 and T4 production is reduced, pituitary gland gets triggered to produce more T3 and T4 to maintain homeostasis. This phenomenon is known as negative feedback since lowered production of T3 and T4 increases the production of TSH.

What causes hypothyroidism?

There are a lot of possible which can cause hypo form of thyroidism, but surely there is a possible treatment option for each. The causes are:

  • Low iodine intake
  • Activity involving destruction of thyroid cells like radiation therapy for cancer treatment
  • Thyroid surgery or removal of thyroid gland
  • Damaged pituitary gland or hypothalamus
  • Post partum thyroiditis or inflammation of thyroid gland after pregnancy

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

  • The first and foremost symptom is changes in the menstrual cycle or occurrence of irregular menses.
  • Constipation and fatigue are other symptoms.
  • Bradycardia or slower heart rate
  • Dry skin and hair and also hair fall are also observed
  • Abnormal weight gain and difficulty to shed the weight gained
  • Numbness or tingling sensation in the hand due to the median nerve is also a symptom. This condition is otherwise known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

How can hypothyroidism be treated?

Hypothyroidism, in most cases, persists throughout the lifetime of an individual. However, levels of the hormone production are controlled with regular and proper medication. The only possible treatment option in this case is intake of artificially synthesized T4 or thyroxine hormones all throughout with different powers of medicines with respect to the level of hormone produced in the body. The artificially synthesized T4 acts as a supplement for the body as the thyroid gland is underactive in case of hypothyroidism. Prolonged hypothyroidism can lead to many side effects including impaired fertility (thyroid and reproductive system is highly correlated with each other) and decreased bone density (hypothyroidism causes calcium related issues in the body).

Effects of hypothyroidism medication

Rapid or irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, fever, weight loss, impaired fertility, excessive sweating, chest pain and short breath, decreased bone density, change in appetite are some effects of hypothyroidism.  This was a brief overview of hypothyroidism and the related causes and effects.