What is Underactive Thyroid?
An underactive Thyroid occurs when the thyroid gland makes and releases too much thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly. It is located in the front of your neck, under Adam's apple. The thyroid produces hormones that control your body's metabolism. It affects your heart rate and the function of your other organs. It also affects your muscles, bones, and menstrual cycles (in the case of women).
An Underactive Thyroid may be related to Graves' disease. This is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland.
What are the symptoms of Underactive Thyroid?
An Underactive Thyroid Often begins slowly. Its symptoms can be mistaken for stress or other health problems. Common symptoms include:
- Unintentional weight loss.
- Fast, abnormal, or pounding heartbeat.
- Nervousness, anxiety, or sensitivity
- Tremors (trembling of the hands and fingers).
- Changes in menstrual patterns, such as lighter flow or less frequent periods, in women.
- Increased sensitivity to heat.
- Increased sweating
- Changes in bowel habits.
- Enlargement of the thyroid gland (called a goitre), which can appear as swelling at the base of the neck.
- Muscular weakness.
- Trouble sleeping
- Increased appetite
Symptoms in older adults can be subtle. Examples are increased heart rate, fatigue during normal activities, and withdrawal. Doctors can mistake an Underactive Thyroid for depression or dementia.
What are the Causes of Underactive Thyroid?
In more than 70% of cases, an Underactive Thyroid is caused by Graves' disease. Normally, the immune system helps protect your body against viruses, bacteria, and other substances. An autoimmune disease causes it to attack the tissues and/or organs of your body. With Graves' disease, the immune system stimulates the thyroid and causes it to make too much hormone. Doctors think that Graves' disease can be inherited. It is more common among young women.
Two other common causes of underactive Thyroid are:
Hyper functional (overactive) thyroid nodules. One or more nodules or lumps grow on the thyroid. This increases the production of thyroid hormone.
A problem with the immune system or viral infection causes the thyroid gland to swell. This causes the extra thyroid hormone to leak into the bloodstream. Over time, thyroiditis may lead to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
Consuming foods or medications that contain high levels of iodine can lead to an Underactive Thyroid. In rare cases, the cause could be a benign (non-cancerous) tumour in the pituitary gland.
How is Underactive Thyroid diagnosed?
Contact your doctor if you have symptoms of an overactive thyroid. He will check for an enlarged thyroid gland, rapid pulse, clammy skin, eye changes, and a slight tremor in the fingers or hand. Your doctor will also perform a test to measure the amount of thyroid hormone in your blood. This confirms the diagnosis.
Your doctor can do a thyroid study to find the cause. If your entire thyroid is affected, you have Graves' disease. Or the doctor will look for thyroid nodules or inflammation.
Your doctor may also do a radioactive iodine absorption test. This test measures the ability of your thyroid to absorb iodine. High iodine absorption means that your thyroid gland may be producing too much hormone. This indicates Graves’ disease or a hyper-functional thyroid nodule. Low iodine absorption indicates thyroiditis as the cause.
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