Hypothyroidism or reduced thyroid gland activity


One of the disorders of the thyroid gland, popularly known as the thyroid gland, is hypothyroidism. This disorder in the functioning of the thyroid gland is caused by a lack of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) and essentially represents a reduced activity of the thyroid gland itself.

What is hypothyroidism?

Research shows that almost every twentieth person suffers from hypothyroidism and this disorder most often occurs in women aged 35 to 50. This disorder can significantly affect the quality of life and as it often takes a long time to reach a correct diagnosis, a person affected by hypothyroidism can be without adequate therapy for a long time, endure the symptoms believing that they are the result of aging or some other natural processes while the solution to her troubles is actually possible very easily.

Hypothyroidism can be caused by atrophy of the thyroid gland and one of the most common causes of atrophy of this gland is chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, which is also known as Hashimoto’s syndrome (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis).

This is an autoimmune disease which means that at some point the body begins to produce antibodies against its own thyroid gland. This disease is named after the Japanese doctor and scientist Hakaru Hashimoto who was the first to describe it back in 1912. Even today it is not completely clear how this autoimmune disorder occurs but it is known for now that it can be caused by viral and bacterial infections, psychophysical stress, radiation and genetic predispositions.

Women between the ages of 30 and 50 are most often affected by Hashimoto’s but the disorder is increasingly diagnosed in very young people. The essence of this condition is that there is a reduced production of thyroid hormones and if it lasts for a long time the changes in the tissue of the gland can be irreversible, which is why timely diagnosis, but above all, ignoring the symptoms, is of great importance for the further course of treatment. It is even possible that the beginning of the disease is marked by transient hyperthyroidism (increased function of the thyroid gland) so that in the end the last stage would be hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism can also occur after treating hyperthyroidism with radioactive iodine or after surgical procedures where a part of the thyroid gland is removed (subtotal thyroidectomy) during therapy to reduce the work of the thyroid gland, as well as in the case of taking drugs that affect iodine metabolism.

There are also cases of secondary hypothyroidism, which occurs as a result of the disappearance or damage of the pituitary gland, a gland whose function is also to regulate the production of thyroid hormones with the help of the TSH hormone which is its product.

Hypothyroidism can also occur as a result of bleeding in the brain, due to a tumor or head injury or simply due to atrophy of the thyroid gland which can be genetic or which occurs for unknown reasons. Tertiary hypothyroidism can also occur, which is caused by disorders in the hypothalamus and in rare cases this disorder of the thyroid gland can include some hereditary disorders in the secretion of enzymes in the cells of the thyroid gland, which prevents it from producing T3 and T4 hormones in normal amounts.

A long-term condition of hypothyroidism which is not treated with adequate therapy, can result in anemia, although there are also medical views that anemia actually causes reduced thyroid gland function.

Also, chronic hypothyroidism can cause low body temperature (hypothermia) and it can also affect the work of the heart (tightening of the heart, which causes slow work and low pulse). This condition can further progress to confusion, stupor or coma, which is called myxedema, and finally complications that can be life-threatening, causing slowed breathing, epileptic seizures, insufficient blood flow to the brain. The aforementioned myxedema coma can be induced by infection, trauma and sedatives, as well as exposure to low temperatures.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism

The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism vary depending on the extent of hypothyroidism. At the same time, the problem develops slowly, usually over a number of years. If it is important to listen to your body in the case of any condition, disorder or disease, then it is hypothyroidism.

Symptoms exist, our body tells us that something is wrong, even at the beginning of the appearance of problems in the functioning of the thyroid gland, but these symptoms are easily and often attributed to other disorders or weather conditions, the aging process, fatigue or some other natural process.

At the same time, the symptoms are such that the person who is faced with them is often not taken seriously even by the immediate environment and “imagining” that something is wrong is most often attributed to people who have a problem with the thyroid gland.

So the symptoms are there but it often takes a long time until the patient reaches a specialist doctor, who makes the diagnosis quite easily and can solve or bring the problem under control in a shorter period of time, which can trouble patients for years. That’s why it should be emphasized once again that you should not ignore the messages that your body sends you. Even if you are imagining it, let the experts (several of them) confirm it.

One of the most well-known causes of hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s syndrome is one of the causes known in the world of endocrinology, which “sneaks” in the body until it makes its mark and is finally diagnosed.

In the earlier stages of this disorder it can be manifested in the form of increased thyroid function, such as tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), increased sweating, loss of body weight and then completely opposite symptoms appear, such as slow heart rate (bradycardia), absence sweating, gaining weight with the same food intake and everything else that is characteristic of hypothyroidism.

The symptoms of Hashimoto thyroiditis may not be clearly expressed and often differ from one person to another. At the beginning of the disease, the patient does not even notice that something is happening to his body and as the symptoms develop gradually and insidiously, the patient gets used to the anxiety he feels, he simply learns to live with them as something that comes with age.

One of the most characteristic symptoms is constant fatigue which can have serious consequences and patients associate it with the aging process or the fast pace of life. This is a really important symptom and you should never ignore it, because despite everything, unless you are a baby, it is not normal to be constantly sleepy.

Various insidious diseases hide behind this symptom and ignoring it and looking for excuses and layman’s explanations is the most dangerous thing you can do for your health. So, sleepiness is one of the symptoms that belongs to the set of symptoms that indicate Hashimoto’s syndrome.

The main symptoms are certainly fatigue and exhaustion. In addition, there is often a characteristic goitre (enlargement of the thyroid gland, which is located in the neck area, where this enlargement is visible).

Goitre can further cause hoarseness and trouble swallowing. It is the enlargement of the thyroid gland, with reduced function, characteristic of Hashimoto’s syndrome, which should be obvious to doctors. However, whatever the cause of hypothyroidism, there are accompanying symptoms that should signal the patient to see a doctor.

These are the following symptoms:

  • a constant decrease in the ability to concentrate and remember
  • difficult awakening and sleepiness already in the early evening hours
  • moodiness (loss of will) and tendency to depression
  • frostbite
  • reduced sweating
  • weight gain that is not a consequence of increased food intake
  • slow heartbeat
  • low pressure
  • slow movements and speech
  • muscle pains
  • accumulation of fluid in the body in characteristic places such as the legs, arms and face, especially the eyelids.
  • Blurred vision, occasional or very frequent constipation, menstrual cycle disorder and decreased libido may also occur.
  • You can also see changes in dry skin, due to hair loss or hoarseness.
  • Some patients have been noted to have pale orange palms and soles.

In the end, it is important to say that all these symptoms can be absent and there is a hormone imbalance, a reduced level of thyroid hormones and an increased level of TSH, which is how the pituitary gland tries to stimulate increased production of thyroid hormones.

This kind of clinical picture is called subclinical, because symptoms are absent but this knowledge tells us that it is important to do periodic hormone checks. Therefore, the most authoritative symptom is precisely the hormone test that shows that the hormone level is not normal.

Hypothyroidism and fatigue

The slow work of the thyroid gland represents a reduced production and secretion of hormones T3 and T4 in sufficient quantities. As these two hormones stimulate the work of metabolism, their reduced level slows down the metabolism and the person dealing with this disorder gains weight even without increased food intake.

When your disease is not under control and you are not using the therapy prescribed by your specialist doctor, there is little that diet can fix. Some patients describe their condition as “getting fat on air”. With the right therapy, things will return to normal and adequate nutrition and physical activity can only contribute to the overall positive state of your body, not only physical but also mental health.

It is important to note here, something that is highlighted in the instructions for all hormone tablets, which are used in the treatment of hypothyroidism and that is that we must not take hormones on our own, especially not in order to “adjust the bodyline”.

Hypothyroidism nutrition

The basic things you need to know is that it is necessary to eat foods that stimulate the function of the thyroid gland and in particular, you should avoid foods that reduce the absorption of iodine.

Fish and seafood are rich in iodine so for those who do not eat a lot of salty food, this type of food is an important part of the table.  Fresh or lightly steamed vegetables are also recommended, especially spinach, carrots, sunflowers and the like.

Foods rich in vitamin A are very important for those suffering from hypothyroidism. Whole wheat breakfast cereals are recommended. You should also avoid foods that slow down the absorption of iodine in the body. These are e.g. cabbage, peanuts, kale, broccoli, mustard, soy, linseed, millet.

Hypothyroidism treatment

As you yourself have concluded, an adequate diagnosis is also important for adequate treatment, and it is most reliably established by blood analysis and the symptoms that accompany this disorder.

If there is an increased level of TSH, a pituitary hormone in the blood, which stimulates an increase in the level of thyroid hormone and despite this a decreased level of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4), this indicates that TSH is trying to stimulate the production and secretion of thyroid hormone but in this it fails, because there is some problem in the work of the gland.

When the problem is clearly established, then treatment begins. Treatment may include only monitoring if drug treatment could damage your health further. This is, for example, in the case that the thyroid hormone level is within normal limits, and the TSH level is slightly increased. It is also important to note that treatment does not necessarily mean that you will be permanently cured at some point.

This is a condition that most often requires lifelong monitoring and controls, but as scary as this sounds, it is about regular controls that can be two or three times a year (when the right dose is found) and apart from having to take therapy daily, you live a completely normal life , which improves noticeably with the right therapy.

The level of the TSH hormone plays an important role in determining the dosage of drugs for the treatment of hypothyroidism, both at the beginning and during the further treatment process (because the dosage cannot be determined once, but is corrected based on regular blood tests depending on the current results).

When there is a relatively mild increase in TSH, hormone therapy will have no effect, and may even have a harmful effect. If TSH is higher, then including thyroid hormone therapy can improve cholesterol levels, the contractility of your heart, and energy levels.

The exception here are pregnant women, for whom the reference values ​​are different and for whom treatment is necessary even in cases of subclinical hypothyroidism. Thyroid wraps can also help treat and relieve thyroid symptoms!

Hypothyroidism and menstruation

The fact that low thyroid hormone levels are the cause of the absence of ovulation, i.e. the creation of an egg in a woman’s ovaries, shows how important it is to control the functioning of the thyroid gland. This implies a decrease in fertility in women and hypothyroidism implies, according to all the above, a disorder of the menstrual cycle.

Hypothyroidism and pregnancy

If you suspect symptoms of hypothyroidism and especially if you have thyroid or diabetes patients in your family it is important to consult an endocrinologist, especially if you are planning to become pregnant or are already pregnant.

Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to more frequent miscarriages, preeclampsia and even birth defects in the newborn. These children are also more prone to serious intellectual and developmental problems.

Hypothyroidism in infant

Infants with undetected hypothyroidism at birth are at risk of serious problems with physical and mental development. The chances for normal development are in the correct diagnosis of the condition already in the first few months of life.

Hypothyroidism in children

It is rare, but not impossible. It is important that if you have a history of illness in your family, you should check and monitor the possibility of thyroid gland disorders in your child as well. Early diagnosis and regular check-ups will make your child lead a completely normal life.