What is hypothyroidism:

Hypothyroidism happens when the thyroid gland is underactive and is not able to produce enough thyroid hormones to help your body function at the correct level. When a person’s thyroid is improperly formed at birth, surgically removed (all or in part), or becomes incapable of producing enough thyroid hormone, that person is diagnosed as hypothyroid.

In layman’s terms, hypothyroidism is when the thyroid glad does not give out the correct amount of hormones to our body. It can be compared to the situation of an undernourished plant having enough water but no sunlight.

What is the thyroid gland:

The thyroid gland is situated in the neck, just below the larynx (Adam’s apple) and produces thyroid hormones. The main hormones released by the thyroid are triiodothyronine (aka T3) and thyroxine (aka T4). These hormones are essential for physical and mental growth and development. They also play a vital role in many metabolic processes in the body.

What causes hypothyroidism:

One of the most common causes of hypothyroidism is the autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s disease, in which antibodies gradually target the thyroid and destroy its ability to produce thyroid hormones. Other causes are:

– surgical removal of the thyroid gland

– radioactive iodine theraphy

– chronic inflammatory-like disease of the thyroid gland

– congenital malformation of the thyroid gland

– stress

Who are susceptible to hypothyroidism and the risk factor:

– genetic susceptibility: if it runs in the family it will occur in any family member

– over 50 years of age: usual explanation is because the body is experiencing a lot of changes and becomes slower in its functions

– female gender: females are dictated by hormones all throughout their lives. From the regular menstrual periods to child birth women has the greater reliance on their hormones to do function properly.

– iodine/drugs

– thyroid surgery and exposure of the neck to x-ray or radioactive treatments.

What are the signs and symptoms to Hypothyroidism: (they can include two or more of the following)

◊ Feeling very tired

◊ Weight gain or trouble losing weight

◊ Very dry skin or paler skin than usual

◊ Coarseness or loss of hair

◊ Increase of hair usually present only in males = Hirsutism (i.e. females having mustache or other facial hair, increase hair on the legs )

◊ Hoarse or raspy voice

◊ Enlarged thyroid gland (front and neck)

◊ Feeling cold all over

◊ Muscle or joint pains

◊ Constipation

◊ Having trouble remembering things

◊ Having trouble concentrating or slower thinking

◊ Feeling depressed

◊ Irregular or heavy menstrual period

◊ Infertility

◊ High cholesterol levels (Hyperlipidemia)

◊ Slower speech / ◊ slower reflexes / ◊ slow heart beat

◊ Swollen hands / ◊ cold hands / ◊ brittle nails

◊ Puffy face

Do you have two or more of these symptoms?

If you have two or more of the symptoms:

I suggest that you seek medical help immediately. Common tests done to find out if you have hypothyroidism are:

– Physical exam to detect initial signs of hypothyroidism

– Blood tests (TSH, T4, T3, WBC)

– Thyroid scan (for thyroid imaging)

– Thyroid ultrasound (used in the diagnosis of thyroid nodules, to know whether the thyroid is enlarged)

Your age, weight, health status and the results of your blood tests will be assessed by your doctor to determine the starting dose. Usually, you may be required to repeat blood tests every 2 – 8 weeks until your doctor is sure that you have the optimal dose for your current situation

Note that not all hypothyroid case are the same. There are people who will require larger doses than others.

Medications and Treatment:

Usually endocrinologists will prescribe taking levothyroxine (Synthroid) which is a synthetic hormone provider. I will create another post that will wholly discuss synthroid.

Aside from taking levothyroxine, female patients are advised to also seek an OB-Gynecologist especially of you are having irregular or heavy menstrual flows. A problem in hormones directly affects the female reproductive system.

An as any old adage, taking medicines needs to go hand-in-hand with exercise and proper diet. This is very important with hypothyroidism because it generally causes an abnormal weight gain and a harder time to lose weight even though you are not eating a lot.

Living with hypothyroidism:

Periodic monitoring and compliance to medication are required to manage hypothyroidism and to judge your responses to medication. Your doctor will regularly monitor the amount of thyroid hormones in your blood. Depending on the result of laboratory tests it may be necessary to adjust the dose your thyroid medication.

Continued care by an endocrinologist (a specialist in thyroid disorders) is necessary for appropriate hypothyroidism management. It is also important that whenever there is a change in your status, go back to your doctor for your dose may need adjustments. For example, if you:

* gain or lose weight

* start any new medication

* reach 50 years of age

* become pregnant or is planning to become one

* develop diabetes

* develop new illnesses or existing illness gets worse

* enter menopause


1.Hypothyroidism (2009) A pamphlet of  Organon Philippines, Inc

2. Your thyroid gland – Pamphlet of Abbott