Thyroid disease affects an estimated 12 million people in the U.S. As many as 60% of people with thyroid disease don’t know they have it. Your thyroid is a tiny gland responsible for lots of processes in the body. It produces hormones that are used by all of the cells, tissues, and organs in your body.
It’s responsible for controlling your metabolism and all related body functions. Hypothyroidism happens when your thyroid doesn’t work correctly. Because the hormones are responsible for so many processes, the effects can be felt throughout the body. Hypothyroid guidelines help you determine if you have the condition and how it’s treated.
We’ve put together a guide to help you learn more about this condition.
What Is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is one type of thyroid disease that happens when the gland can’t produce enough thyroid hormone. Your thyroid is underactive.
Since your thyroid can’t keep up with your hormone needs, the affected processes in your body start to slow down. That slow-down is often what causes the symptoms of an underactive thyroid.
Anyone can have hypothyroidism, but certain characteristics give you an increased chance of developing it.
Women are more likely than men to receive a diagnosis, as are white or Asian people.
As you get older, your chances increase, especially after age 60. If your hair grays early, it could make you more likely to have hypothyroidism.
Certain medical conditions may trigger a thyroid problem. Those include:
- Turner syndrome
- Goiter or other previous thyroid problems
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Type 1 diabetes
- Celiac disease
- Other autoimmune disorders
- Down syndrome
- Bipolar disorder
- Radiation to the thyroid
Pregnancy within the last 6 months and a family history of thyroid disease may also increase your chances.
Low Thyroid Symptoms
Hypothyroidism symptoms can vary by person. Some people may not experience any symptoms, while others feel many. The intensity of the symptoms can also vary.
The condition usually develops slowly, so the symptoms may start off mild. The gradual increase in intensity can make it tough to spot the symptoms.
One of the biggest symptoms that many people feel is fatigue. The low hormone regulates your metabolism, which affects your energy levels. When you’re short on it, you’ll feel tired.
Weight gain is another common symptom. When your metabolism slows down due to decreased thyroid hormone, your body isn’t able to burn as many calories while you’re at rest. That can cause you to gain weight or make it more difficult for you to lose weight.
You may also avoid exercise if you’re feeling fatigued. The decreased activity contributes to your weight gain or difficulty in losing.
Other symptoms include:
- Slower heart rate
- Pain in your joints and muscles
- Weak muscles
- Dry skin
- Dry hair
- Thinning hair
- Fertility issues
- Menstrual cycle differences, including heavy flow or irregularity
- Face puffiness
- Intolerance to cold
- Depression symptoms
Often, the signs of hypothyroidism are general and could have many causes. If you notice these symptoms, talk to your doctor. The testing for hypothyroidism is a simple blood test.
Since your thyroid can’t keep up with your hormone needs, you’ll need to get it another way. A prescription drug that replaces the hormone can help you control the condition. The medication mimics your natural thyroid hormone exactly.
Your doctor will check your hormone levels regularly while you’re on the prescription. This ensures the medication keeps you in the normal range. Your doctor may adjust the dose of your medication if the test shows you’re outside the normal range.
When you take your medication daily and you’re on the correct dose, you should see your symptoms start to go away. You also decrease your risk of complications.
Leaving Hypothyroidism Untreated
The hypothyroidism symptoms may not seem too bad, but those symptoms aren’t the only possible side effects of the condition. Left untreated, hypothyroidism can cause a variety of health problems.
Some of those problems include:
- Increased bad cholesterol levels
- Heart failure
- Cognitive impairment
- Neuromuscular dysfunction
- Decreased lung function
- Increased risk of miscarriage or preterm labor
- Increased risk of pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia
- Birth defects
- Nerve damage
In rare cases when severe hypothyroidism goes untreated, you can develop myxedema, which is caused by extremely low thyroid hormone levels. It causes a coma and is a life-threatening condition.
If your thyroid function is already extremely low, certain conditions can trigger myxedema. That includes infections, heart failure, stroke, surgery, certain drugs, and trauma.
Early diagnosis of myxedema is critical. It can result in death if not treated right away.
Foods to Avoid
Your diet is an important part to hypothyroid guidelines. Diet can affect hypothyroidism. Some foods may help your body’s metabolism. Others can make your hypothyroidism symptoms worse.
Iodine is an important part of the thyroid producing its hormones. If you have an iodine deficiency, it can affect your hypothyroidism.
Broccoli, cabbage, and other cruciferous veggies may slow thyroid hormone production even more if you’re iodine deficient. If you can’t give up those veggies, cook them to minimize their interference with your thyroid functioning.
Some researchers believe soy could make it more difficult for your body to absorb your medication. Too much fat in your diet may have the same effect. Skip the caffeine when you take your medication because it may also interfere with medication absorption.
Skip the high-sodium foods if you have hypothyroidism. You may already have high blood pressure because of the condition. High sodium intake can affect that even more.
Alcohol can interfere with your thyroid. It may make it more difficult for your thyroid to produce the hormone. It may also make it more difficult for your body to use the thyroid hormone it has.
So what should you eat?
Getting a variety of healthy foods can help give you more energy. It can also help you lose weight.
Foods high in iodine may help if your thyroid condition is caused by an iodine deficiency. Selenium and zinc may help the body more easily use thyroid hormones.
Follow Hypothyroid Guidelines
Knowing the hypothyroid guidelines and treatments helps you manage your symptoms to help you feel better. With the proper treatment, you can support your thyroid to improve its functioning.
Learn more about finding affordable prescriptions for hypothyroidism and other conditions!