The most common hypothyroidism causes are due to a defect in the thyroid gland itself or the immune system. One of the most common causes is Hashimoto’s syndrome, which is an auto-immune disorder in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Other causes are medication-induced hypothyroidism, thyroid cancer,and postpartum thyroiditis.
Hashimoto’s syndrome is a condition that causes the immune system to attack and disable the thyroid gland. This is one of the most prevalent hypothyroidism causes. Symptoms of Hashimoto’s syndrome and hypothyroidism in general include sluggishness, fatigue, memory lapses, intolerance to cold, trouble losing weight, and dry skin. More severe cases may result in loss of fertility and heart palpitations. Treatment may include medications to replace lost thyroid hormones or the destruction or removal of the thyroid gland followed by hormone replacement therapy.
Medication can also be one of the hypothyroidism causes. Some prescription drugs can cause inflammation of the thyroid gland or reduce the effectiveness of the thyroid. Treatments include reducing the dose of problematic medications or switching to an entirely different drug altogether. If thyroid function has been permanently affected, replacement hormones may be needed long-term.
Thyroid cancer may also be one of the hypothyroidism causes, primarily if the thyroid gland has to be totally or partially removed. Sometimes thyroid function is hindered due to the growth of a tumor, while at other times thyroid function isn’t diminished until part or all of the thyroid gland has to be removed to get rid of the cancer. In either case, hormonal replacement medications are often used.
Postpartum thyroiditis is another one of the hypothyroidism causes, and it comes as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. Women usually experience symptoms within six months of delivery, but some may still have issues for up to twelve months and a number of women will continue to have hypothyroidism permanently. Most women who experience postpartum thyroiditis have detectable levels of antibodies against the thyroid gland prior to delivery, meaning that hypothyroidism may have been imminent before pregnancy occurred. Medication may be needed, although this is often temporary.
Most people with hypothyroidism can be successfully treated. If symptoms are noticed, they should be evaluated by a doctor immediately and a thyroid hormone level test should be conducted. Untreated hypothyroidism is related to infertility, an inability to breastfeed successfully, slow metabolism and weight gain, lack of mental clarity and function, and even more serious health problems like heart failure and stroke. In many cases, the use of medications returns patients to normal function, although hormone levels will need to be routinely monitored.