According to the American Thyroid Association, about 12% of Americans will develop a thyroid condition. Yet, almost 60% of people with a disorder or disease are unaware of it.
Despite having symptoms, these people don’t get an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Typically, physicians can reverse dysfunction with early awareness and treatment. Sometimes, a condition may require surgery. But, in other cases, a condition is easily fixed with medication like levothyroxine.
Iron deficiencies can cause thyroid conditions. The conditions, in turn, can exacerbate the iron deficiencies. To treat deficiency-related conditions, a doctor may recommend an iron plus supplement.
Yet, too many people don’t get treatment because they’re unaware of the symptoms.
This ignorance can be dangerous. The thyroid is a critical gland in the human body. As part of the endocrine system, it creates hormones that facilitate vital physiological functions.
In severe cases, low function causes myxedema: organ shutdown and coma. While myxedema is rare—roughly only one in one million patients end up in this state—it’s often fatal. 29% of myxedema patients die in the coma.
Read on to discover how this gland works. Then, learn nine early warning signs of hypothyroidism: a low-function thyroid.
What does the thyroid do?
The thyroid is a hormone-producing gland in the endocrine system. The endocrine system regulates the processes of organ systems in the body.
It produces triiodothyronine (T3). It also produces thyroxine (T4). These hormones enable effective metabolism function. The metabolic process:
- Digests food
- Turns food into energy (like body heat)
- Regulates heart rate and breathing
At the same time, thyroid hormones interface with other hormone cycles in the body. So, some conditions can disrupt the sleep cycle. T3 is also critical to muscle and tissue growth.
When it is underactive, it doesn’t produce enough of these hormones. As a result, people with low-functioning thyroids experience disruptive symptoms.
What causes under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism)?
Hypothyroidism is the medical term for a thyroid that doesn’t produce enough thyroxine or triiodothyronine. Hypothyroidism typically has an underlying cause.
Physicians typically want to determine the underlying cause of hypothyroidism to pursue the best course of treatment. The most typical causes of hypothyroidism include:
- Autoimmune condition (Hashimoto’s disease)
- Iodine insufficiency/goiter
- Medication side-effect
- Cancer treatments
- Treatments for hyperthyroidism (over-active thyroid)
- Congenital thyroid condition
- Thyroid nodules
- Pituitary gland condition (congenital or tumor)
Different underlying causes require different treatments. In a worst-case scenario, an endocrinologist might have to remove a patient’s thyroid. In these cases, a patient will have to take synthetic (pill) versions of the thyroid’s hormones as part of staying healthy.
But, if the problem is as straightforward as iodine and iron deficiencies, doctors can treat that. There’s a range of supplements and vitamin options.
If you have any of these nine symptoms, talk to a doctor. They can determine the underlying cause of your condition with some lab work.
9 Early Warning Signs and Symptoms of Low Function and Hypothyroidism
There are nine critical signs that your thyroid might not be as healthy as it could be. Consider tracking your physical sensations and experiences throughout the day to find any patterns. This data can help a physician narrow down the cause of your symptoms.
Fatigue is lethargy or tiredness. Hypothyroidism can slow your heart rate, which causes fatigue. It can also make it harder for your body to take in energy from food.
In addition to physical tiredness, fatigue can impair memory. This is called “brain fog.”
2. Feeling Cold
Coldness is a common symptom of hypothyroidism. Metabolism maintains internal body temperature. When it’s disrupted, your body can’t heat itself properly.
Hypothyroidism can likewise cause increased cold sensitivity.
Constipation is difficulty passing bowel movements. Stools may be hard, and elimination is often painful and incomplete.
Constipation can happen when your colon’s contractions are slower or weaker than they should be. Hypothyroidism causes this colon weakness (also called reduced gut motility).
It can also impact the digestive processes that absorb water from food. Hypothyroidism can cause the digestive system to over-absorb water in the colon, which dehydrates the stool.
4. Dry Skin
Hypothyroidism causes all metabolic processes to slow down. This reduces eccrine gland secretion. Healthy eccrine glands produce sweat and other natural fluids, which maintain your body’s temperature and keep your skin moisturizer.
When hypothyroidism slows down or disrupts secretion, you get dry skin and brittle nails.
5. Hair Loss
Thyroid hormones are responsible for the growth of bodily tissues. This includes hair growth.
As hair follicle growth slows, hair thins. As dead hair falls out, there’s no new, healthy living hair to replace it. Fortunately, treating the underlying condition can reverse air loss.
6. Weight Gain
Hypothyroidism disrupts metabolism. This makes it harder to turn food into energy. Instead, excess salt, water, and fat accumulate in adipose tissue.
Hypothyroidism also increases the half-life of cortisol. At the same time, it decreases how frequently the metabolism clears away cortisol. This causes cortisol buildup.
The body stores excess cortisol in adipose tissue. The resulting stress causes people to gain weight. At the same time, fatigue from hypothyroidism makes it hard to move and exercise healthily.
7. High Cholesterol
Hypothyroidism causes high cholesterol because it slows metabolism. The body cannot process cholesterol frequently enough. Cholesterol builds up.
8. Muscle Aches, Weakness
Hypothyroidism causes muscle aches and weakness. The technical term for this is “hypothyroid myopathy.” Poor function dysregulates metabolism on a cellular level.
T4 deficiency prevents the mitochondria in muscle tissue cells from processing glucose for energy. Without these processes, muscle tissues change to become weaker, more easily injured, and slower to recover.
9. Puffiness or Swelling
Hypothyroidism can cause puffy face and tissue inflammation. It slows the production of enzymes that break down the fluids our tissues absorb. Without enough of these enzymes, fluid builds up and causes swelling.
Sometimes the thyroid itself is swollen. In these cases, hypothyroidism causes painful swallowing and hoarseness. These symptoms require urgent evaluation.
Hypothyroidism Treatments: Surgery, Levothyroxine, Iron Plus Support Supplements
If your dysfunction stems from Hashimoto’s disease, your doctor will probably prescribe T3 and T4 replacement therapy. Endocrinologists call this form of HRT “Synthroid.”
Treatment differs for patients with atrophic thyroiditis disease (a type of congenital thyroid condition). To diagnose thyroiditis, goiter, or complications from hyperthyroidism treatment, you may need a thyroid ultrasound. Treatment may include surgery, levothyroxine, and synthetic growth hormones.
Thyroid support supplements can boost thyroid health and wellness. Supplement options like Korean Ginseng and Ashwagandha can improve function. Just make sure to talk to your doctor if you take Synthroid, as some supplements can disrupt Synthroid absorption.
Maintenance for Whole-Self Health
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what is hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which someone has an underactive thyroid. Hypothyroidism symptoms are the result of an underactive thyroid. Hypothyroidism is a disease that can be treated with medicine by increasing hormone levels. Thyroid hormone levels are key to overall health.
how to prevent hypothyroidism
You can prevent hypothyroidism when taking hypothyroidism medicine and checking your thyroid hormone levels. Managing hormone levels is a great way of preventing hypothyroidism. If you have an underactive thyroid, you may be at risk of developing hypothyroidism. Checking your thyroid hormone levels regularly will help you balance other external factors. To expand on thyroid hormone levels, clinical tests were done and the thyroid gland can be treated with medicine.
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