Hypothyroidism is the condition of having an underactive thyroid which fails to produce enough of certain hormones. The condition can be caused by inflammation of the thyroid gland that results in damage or a thyroid condition that necessitates surgery or treatment that leaves the thyroid incapable of normal functionality. Examples include surgery for thyroid cancer or goiters. The treatment is fairly straightforward and effective and involves providing synthetic hormone to make up for the thyroid’s low production. But the key to getting treatment is to identify the problem, so knowing about symptoms of hypothyroidism is important.
The thyroid hormone that is lacking in hypothyroidism is related to metabolism. Therefore, some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism will reflect having a slow metabolism. This may include weight gain without marked changes in diet or level of exercise. It can also mean that someone trying to lose weight will feel as if it is really difficult to do so.
Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include changes to the hair and skin, including dryness of both hair and skin, coarse hair and rough skin. Symptoms may also include muscle cramps or muscle aches, joint pain, and constipation. Changes in affect and mood include irritability. Taken to an extreme, hypothyroidism can cause depression. Also, not only can hypothyroidism lessen libido, but it can also cause infertility.
Because having insufficient hormone production means that one doesn’t have the normal chemical balance in one’s body, symptoms of hypothyroidism are often systemic. This may include generalized weakness and fatigue. Menstrual cycles may become abnormal, and one may find that one’s skin turns pale and one’s tolerance for cool or cold temperatures is very low.
The exact symptoms, as well as the severity, will depend on the length of time during which the body has lacked the proper hormone balance. There may be no symptoms at all when the imbalance is just beginning. On the other hand, left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to heart disease.
As in many other cases, establishing that you have symptoms of hypothyroidism does not definitively mean that it is a thyroid issue that is causing your issues. A thyroid function test will accurately establish whether hypothyroidism is the cause. If so, treatment may begin. If not, another diagnosis will be sought. At some point, your primary care physician may consult or wish to to be treated by an endocrinologist.