thyroid gland with an arrow over top and text bubble saying what is hypothyroid disease?

Hypothyroidism is the term used for abnormally low activity of the thyroid gland. Since the thyroid gland serves so many functions, signs and symptoms are varying and can affect many aspects of human health. Hypothyroidism is diagnosed by signs and symptoms, and confirmed with blood tests.

It affects about 1 in 4,000 newborns and approximately 1% of the population.

A Review of Normal Thyroid Function

Thyroid function is controlled by a variety of glands and hormones, as depicted in the figure below.

For more information, please click here for a full detailed explanation.

a thryroid gland with T3 and T4 hormones being released

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is low functioning thyroid. This means that T3 and T4 are either low or not having their usual effects on the rest of the body.

The image below depicts how low functioning thyroid may look on blood work. Low T3 and T4 and elevated Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) are commonly seen in patients with low functioning thyroid.

a schematic showing thyroid metabolism in hypothyroidism, including T3 and T4 and how when they drop, TSH will increase

Causes of Hypothyroidism

There are various causes of low functioning thyroid. Anyone diagnosed with hypothyroidism must ensure their health care provider has investigated the following relate to their case:

  1. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (most common case)
  2. Congenital Hypothytoidism (Cretinism)
  3. Thyroid Ablation
    • Treatment of Graves’ Disease: typically radioactive iodine (I-131) or thyroidectomy
    • Treatment of some cancers (such as Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Laryngeal cancer), typically neck radiation
  1. Medications
  2. Secondary Hypothyroidism
    • Congenital hypothyroidism
    • Pituitary necrosis (Sheehan’s syndrome)
    • Pituitary or hypothalamic lesion
    • HIV lesion on highly active antiretrovirals
  1. Transient Hypothyroidism
    • Postpartum thyroiditis
    • Subacute thyroiditis
    • Silent thyroiditis
    • TSH receptors blocking anti-body associated thyroiditis

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Since thyroid function controls every aspect of your body, symptoms can be quite broad. In fact, none of the symptoms are specific to hypothyroidism, which is why a thorough medical history, as well as lab testing, is crucial.

Generalized

  • Fatigue or weakness (99%)
  • Lethargy (91%)
  • Cold intolerance (89%)
  • Weight gain despite diminished food intake
  • Edema
  • Arthralgias (joint pains)
  • Myalgias (muscle pains)

Neuropsychiatric

  • Diminished libido
  • Headache
  • Hoarseness
  • Slow thinking
  • Forgetfulness (66%)
  • Slow speech (91%)
  • Depressed mood
  • Difficulty concentrating

Gastrointestinal

  • Constipation (61%)

Dermatologic

  • Dry or coarse skin (97%)
  • Decreased sweating (89%)
  • Hair Loss (especially outer third of eyebrows)
  • Broken nails

Gynecologic

  • Amenorrhea or Menorrhagia
  • Infertility
symptoms of hypothyroidism including neuropsychiatric, generalized, dermatologic, gastrointestinal, and gynecologic and how it will show up on thyroid lab testing

Summary

Hypothyroidism is a condition characterized by low thyroid function. Since the thyroid serves so many functions throughout the body, diminished thyroid function will present with a variety of signs and symptoms. Treatment varies from person to person.

Interested in learning more?

Read on in our series of articles on Thyroid Health!

References

About the Author - Dr. Johann de Chickera

Dr. Johann de Chickera is a naturopath at Absolute Health and Wellness in Paris Ontario

Dr. Johann is a licensed naturopathic doctor and co-owner of Absolute Health and Wellness. He completed his 4-year degree at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). His clinical focus lies in chronic disease, such as those related to the Gastrointestinal, Endocrine, and Immune Systems.

His approach to medicine relies on working with the patient to come up with a feasible, multi-factorial approach that addresses all complaints at once. He employs a strong background in diagnostic medicine and human physiology and pathology to diagnose and treat. His treatment involve a combination of nutritional counselling, botanical medicine, eastern medicine (acupuncture), nutraceutical supplementation and hands on physical medicine.

To book in please call us at (519) 442-2206 or click here.

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