Hypothyroidism Symptoms

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

What is hypothyroidism?

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ situated on the front of the neck that secretes two hormones, thyroxine (also known as T4) and triiodothyronine (called T3), that are important in the control of metabolism. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce adequate levels of these critical hormones.

Hypothyroidism is very common and is estimated to affect 3% to 5% of the adult population. It is more common in women than in men, and the risk of developing hypothyroidism increases with advancing age.

Hypothyroidism is most commonly a result of an autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto's thyroiditis, in which the body's own immune cells attack and destroy the thyroid gland. Since the activity of the thyroid gland is controlled by other hormones from the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus of the brain, defects in these areas can also cause underactivity of the thyroid gland. Previous surgeries on the thyroid or a history of irradiation to the neck are other causes of hypothyroidism.

Thyroid Quiz: Test Your Medical IQ

Symptoms of hypothyroidism

Symptoms of hypothyroidism can be mild or severe, but are often very subtle. People with a mild form of the condition may not have any symptoms at all. The most serious form of hypothyroidism is called myxedema, which can lead to coma and even death. An underactive thyroid gland affects all organs and functions within the body, leading to both physical and emotional symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism in adults are:

Those affected by more advanced cases of hypothyroidism may notice dryness or thickening of the skin; slow speech; abnormal menstrual cycles; puffiness of the face, hands, or feet; and decreased capacity for taste and smell.

If you are experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism, your doctor can order simple blood tests to diagnose the condition. An underactive thyroid gland is in most cases easily and completely treated by daily administration of thyroid hormones in tablet form.

Medically reviewed by John A. Seibel, MD; Board Certified Internal Medicine with a subspecialty in Endocrinology & Metabolism

REFERENCE:

MedscapeReference.com. Hypothyroidism.

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Reviewed on 4/12/2016

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