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What is an Underactive Thyroid?

Diagnosis of underactive thyroid is made through a blood test.
An underactive thyroid can cause weight gain.
A myxedema coma is a loss or reduction of brain function and is a serious complication of hypothyroidism.
Thyroid functioning affects the body's metabolism.
Article Details
  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Underactive thyroid is also called hypothyroidism. This name refers to a condition where the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone. The gland is small and is located at the base of the throat. It is controlled by the pituitary gland, which releases something called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). When the thyroid gland detects TSH, it releases two different thyroid hormones called thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Sometimes the gland doesn’t produce enough of one or both of these hormones and this results in hypothyroidism.

Symptoms of having an underactive thyroid gland can be varied. They frequently include tiredness, fatigue, and weight gain not explained by diet. Other symptoms like easily breakable fingernails, depression, very heavy menstrual periods, and extra sensitivity to cold can also be present.

An extremely underactive thyroid gland may result in loss of mental acuity and in some people, it may look early onset Alzheimer’s. Alternately some people lapse into coma due to extremely low blood pressure. In most cases, people receive treatment for underactive thyroid gland long before this occurs because they may feel like they are constantly under the weather and exhausted.

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Diagnosis of underactive thyroid is made through a blood test. When people have too much TSH and too little thyroxine, it’s frequently an indication that the body is not producing enough thyroid hormones. Usually people are treated with thyroxine only in the form of Synthroid or levothyroxine, a generic drug. Levels of these hormones will be tested again once treatment begins to make sure people are getting the right amounts of medication.

Sometimes medical treatment is touted as safe and effective without risk. This isn’t always the case. While many people tolerate thyroid medication very well, continued thyroid supplementation in older women is associated with increased risk for osteoporosis. Though it’s undoubtedly true that medication for underactive thyroid is important, it’s not without this serious side effect.

Another thing many people who take thyroid medication appear to notice is that treatment with generic drugs may not be quite as effective. There is some evidence to suggest that the brand name Synthroid works better, perhaps based on the way the drug breaks down in the body. There are some doctors that acknowledge that there does appear to be a difference between the generic and brand norm form, but not all doctors do. If generic medication does not appear to be offering you symptom relief from underactive thyroid, you might want try the brand name version, though it is more expensive.

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anon24508
Post 2

Spasiba,

I think you're wrong. Lifestyle changes are usually not enough to change thyroid function, and there are some problems with continuing to have low thyroid levels. Low levels can degrade brain function, make people more at risk for contracting illnesses, make it difficult to lose or maintain weight and other things. These are things that ought to be avoided. Lots of people have low thyroid and think they can just "live with it," but that's not the case, and herbal medicines do not replace thyroid hormones. With all due respect, I have to say your advice would misguide people when what they really need is thyroid replacement and medical help.

Paired with thyroid replacement, I'm sure your plans would help promote overall health though.

spasiba
Post 1

To ease the symptoms of underactive thyroid some lifestyle changes might be helpful. Exercise, in particular yoga, herbal medicine or even acupuncture can help.

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