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Signs and Symptoms of Underactive Thyroid

Signs and Symptoms of Underactive Thyroid

Underactive thyroid is a condition where the thyroid gland does not work actively. This affects several bodily functions. In this article, you will come to know about its various possible signs and symptoms.
Bidisha Mukherjee
Last Updated: Apr 23, 2018
Underactive thyroid is also known as hypothyroidism. Of the several glands present in our body, thyroid is one of the most important gland. The main functions of the thyroid gland are manufacture, release, and store two of the most essential hormones of our body. These hormones are: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones control the normal functioning of each and every cell and tissues present in our body. The condition arises when there is less production of thyroid hormones. The problem mostly lies with the thyroid gland itself. In some exceptional cases, it can happen due to some problem in the pituitary gland present in the brain and controls the functioning of thyroid gland.
Symptoms
Initial Signs
Tiredness and sluggishness are two of the early symptoms, but are often ignored by the patient. Then more identifiable symptoms such as inability to tolerate cold, muscle and joint pain, lack of appetite, constipation and slow body movements can be found. Some patients may notice moderate increase in their body weight. As the levels of thyroid hormones decrease, the skin and hair tend to become rough, dry and lifeless. Women in their childbearing age, experience irregularity in menstrual cycle. On the other hand, those in their premenopausal stage may get heavy periods.
Advanced Stage
When underactive thyroid is not treated in time, the condition worsens further. It may lead to enlargement of thyroid gland which is also known as goiter. It can also cause a more serious complication known as myxedema. This happens as the levels of thyroid hormones become extremely low. Here, the symptoms are: weakness, lack of sensation in arms and legs, puffiness of face, hair loss, thinning eyebrows, sleepiness even during daytime and change of voice. Many people at advanced stage complain about weak memory and concentration problems. It also affects the overall mental state and may cause depression. Effects of infections, injuries or some specific medications are so severe in some patients of myxedema that it can lead to coma. As a result, the body temperature decreases so much that it can be life-threatening. There are certain symptoms that are seen particularly in elderly people like loss of hearing ability, memory loss and uneasiness.
Symptoms in Children
Underactive thyroid is commonly found in infants and growing children. For this reason, today, neonates are examined for underactive thyroid. This is because, if detected at the early stage, proper treatment can save the child from any abnormal growth. The initial signs of low thyroid in babies are as follows:
  • Frequent choking while feeding
  • Throaty harshness
  • Constipation
  • Puffy face
  • Sleepiness
If left untreated, these babies develop protruding abdomens, dryness of skin and hair and teething may also get delayed. In the later stage, children with underactive thyroid may show less growth of height and intelligence. In other words, it can severely affect the normal physical and mental development of the child.
Treatment
When the signs are observed in an individual, it is advisable to conduct a blood test. This is because underactive thyroid can be detected with low levels of thyroid hormones in the blood. Once it is confirmed, doctors prescribe the patient a medicine named levothyroxine. This is available in tablet form and one tablet has to be taken daily. The dosage of the medicine often varies from one patient to another and it depends on the severity of the condition. It contains synthetic form of thyroxine which is readily absorbed by the body and thus restore the normal levels of thyroid hormone in the body. As soon as, level of thyroid hormones returns to normal in the body, its symptoms that were bothering the patient will disappear on its own. However, even after the thyroid hormone levels in blood return to normal, one has to continue with the treatment lifelong. Treatment in small children and infants is the same as that of adults. With proper treatment, growth and development problems in children can be avoided.
The problem is more commonly found in women than in men. Therefore, women should have proper knowledge about its symptoms. Some women may develop it in the first trimester of pregnancy. If they identify the signs at this stage, they must consult their doctor immediately and undergo treatment for the same in order to ensure healthy growth of the unborn baby.