The thyroid gland is located at the neck and releases hormones like thyroxine (T-4) and triiodothyronine (T-3). These are the two main thyroid hormones which play a major role in carrying out some of the most important metabolic processes in our body. Low thyroid is a condition where the gland is not producing sufficient amount of hormones as per the requirements of the body. As a result, many vital functions of the body tend to become slow and symptoms of low thyroid start showing up.
Medically, this thyroid problem is known as hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid. It can be triggered by a number of factors which include underlying health problems, side effects of medicines, pregnancy, iodine deficiency, and so on. It can affect people of any age group but elderly women above the age of 50 are at a higher risk of having a low level of thyroid hormones.
Symptoms of Low Thyroid
The problem of hypothyroidism develops gradually over a period of time. There are no borderline symptoms as such. During this time, patients may occasionally complain about tiredness or fatigue as the food is not getting converted into energy properly. With the passage of time, as the condition of the patient worsens, the symptoms become more prominent to us. Most of these symptoms indicate slowing down of the metabolic processes.
A few general symptoms of low thyroid found in adults are as follows:
- Increase in cholesterol levels in blood
- Weakness in muscles that make them tender and stiff
- Pain and swelling in the body joints
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Sudden increase in body weight
- Intolerance towards cold
- Aches and pains in the body
- Swelling in the legs
- Change in voice where it tends to become hoarse
- Dryness and paleness of skin
- Dry, rough and brittle hair
- Puffiness on face particularly around the eyes
- Brittleness of nails
- Mental confusion
- Lack of concentration
- Women experience heavier menstrual periods than usual.
Hypothyroidism is mostly found in adults but it can happen to teenagers, small children and even infants. In infants, it is characterized by symptoms like jaundice (yellowing of skin and white part of the eyes), large protruding tongue, constipation and frequent choking. In teenagers and small children, the symptoms are more or less the same as that of the adults. Moreover, it has an adverse effect on the overall growth and development of the child. It results in delay in permanent teeth development, delay in the onset of puberty, lack of proper growth that leads to short stature of the child and improper mental development.
Treatment for Low Thyroid
Low levels of thyroid hormones in the body can be diagnosed with the help of blood tests. Once it is confirmed, doctors prescribe levothyroxine tablets which are nothing but the synthetic form of thyroid hormone. It should be taken daily before breakfast. The daily dosage of the tablet varies in between 50 and 150 micro grams. Initially, the dosage is kept low and is slowly increased. The level of the hormone is tested through blood test after regular interval of time and the dose is then adjusted accordingly from time to time.
Usually, patients find improvement in their health condition after two weeks of proper treatment. However, hypothyroidism cannot be cured completely and the treatment has to be continued all through the life to keep the symptoms in check. If the prescribed medicine is stopped abruptly, then it can trigger physical and mental retardation in future. Calcium and iron often influence absorption of levothyroxine in the body. Hence, while undergoing treatment, one should avoid intake of any kind of calcium or iron supplements.
You cannot afford to ignore the symptoms of low thyroid levels. If left untreated, it can lead to unnecessary health complications. As it causes rise in the cholesterol levels in the blood, the risk of serious heart diseases in future increases manifolds. In pregnant women, it can cause various pregnancy related complications. However, with proper treatment, the problem can be controlled and the chances of health complications become quite less.