Thyroid problems can cause a variety of ailments in the human body. Things like subacute thyroiditis and toxic adenomas can occur due to hyperthyroidism, or the production of too many hormones by the thyroid gland.
Likewise, hypothyroidism can cause many health issues for those afflicted with the condition. Without treatment, hypothyroidism can even lead to a myxedema coma, which can be fatal without immediate hormonal injections.
Hypothyroidism can be especially harmful to infants and children. Lack of thyroid hormones in young children can lead to mental retardation and dwarfism. Nowadays infants are tested for hypothyroidism, and if lower than normal levels of thyroid hormones are detected, immediate treatment is given.
The Causes of Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism has several causes in both children and adults:
- Defective thyroids: The thyroid gland can be damaged or become defective, resulting in lower than normal thyroid hormone production.
- A pituitary disorder: the pituitary gland can send the wrong amount of hormones, or send them at the wrong time, resulting in thyroid problems.
- Missing thyroid gland: A thyroid gland, missing due to defect or injury, cannot supply needed hormones to the body.
Without the needed hormones supplied to the body, people can become lethargic, with low energy levels brought about by the lowered metabolism associated with hypothyroidism. An infant suffering from hypothyroidism will sleep for long periods, have a poor appetite, and will forego playing for periods of quiet inactivity.
Other causes for hypothyroidism include: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a disorder of the autoimmune system that attacks and kills the thyroid gland, cold and sinus medications, and the antidepressant drug Lithium.
In fact, over-exposure to iodides, present in many forms of sinus and cold medicine, as well as the heart medication amiodarone and x-ray dyes can put someone at a greater risk of developing hypothyroidism, especially if they have had previous thyroid issues.
Once hypothyroidism has been diagnosed through blood testing and symptom identification, thyroid hormone replacement therapy should begin. In thyroid hormone replacement therapy, synthetic hormones are utilized to bring thyroid hormone levels up to normal levels. The usual treatment is synthetic thyroxine, administered in pill form.
When considering the treatment of hypothyroidism, doctors must take into consideration the age of the patient, other medical problems such as depression and heart failure that can benefit from therapy or conditions that can potentially be worsened by thyroid hormone replacement therapy, like osteoporosis.
Sufferers of depression can see the benefit of having their depression lessened, or even eliminated, by hormone therapy, which can have immense long term impact on a patient’s mental health and well-being. And like sufferers of depression, those afflicted with heart failure will see an improvement in their health due to the therapeutic effects of hormone therapy on the circulatory system.
Treatment for patients with subclinical hypothyroidism, however, is optional. These patients may not have any obvious signs of hypothyroidism, and have normal cholesterol levels. And while some doctors may recommend treatment to prevent hypothyroidism from progressing into overt hypothyroidism and prevent future heart disease, many doctors recommend against it, saying patients should instead be carefully monitored with testing once or twice a year.
Educating yourself about the different causes and treatments for hypothyroidism can be a wise decision if you or your doctor suspect you may be suffering from the condition. Knowing the causes of symptoms, and how to find the correct treatment options for you, can help you take control of your health and make positive strides toward total body wellness. With treatment, hypothyroidism can be controlled, and you can once again have a normal, happy, and healthy life.
Dr. Michael Barakate is a pediatric and adult otolaryngologist located in Sydney, Australia offering thyroid and parathyroid information at Thyroid.com.au.