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Are you feeling more tired than you used to, and are you putting on weight? Do you find that your face has gone puffy and has an unhealthy pallor? Been forgetting things lately?
Well, it looks like that you may have hypothyroidism and ought to consult an endocrinologist. Do not get worked up - it is a common ailment that affects millions of people all over the world.
What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a condition where your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough of a hormone needed to keep your metabolism functioning normally. That means, you have an underactive thyroid, but this a very common condition that can be managed if you take hormone medication every day - throughout your life. Moreover, you will have to go to an endocrinologist regularly for monitoring the situation.
What causes Hypothyroidism?
The answer to this question is pretty straight â€“ when your thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones, the chemical reaction balance in your body can get upset.
What is the Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland that is located at the base of the front of your neck, just below the Adamâ€™s apple. You can see the Adamâ€™s apple as a bulge in the front of your neck just below your chin. The thyroid gland produces two hormones â€“ Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4) â€“ which have a tremendous impact not only on your health but also on your entire metabolism. The thyroid regulates the production of proteins, controls the heart rate, maintains the rate at which your body should utilize the fats and carbohydrates, and also controls the body temperature.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism:
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Unexplained weight gain
- Puffy face
- Muscle weakness
- Increased blood cholesterol level
- Muscle pains, tenderness, and stiffness
- Pain, stiffness, or swelling in the joints
- Heavy or irregular menstrual periods
- Thinning of the hair
- Slowed heart rate
- Impaired memory
How Should You Plan for Your Appointment?
Take an appointment with your family physician or an endocrinologist. After having taken an appointment with the doctor, there are a few things that you have to do prior to meeting the doctor.
1. If you are meeting your family physician, you can tell him/her your symptoms who will, based on your symptoms, refer you to an endocrinologist.
2. If you are meeting an endocrinologist directly, find out from the endocrinologistâ€™s office if there is anything that you have to do in advance.
3. Write in detail the symptoms that you have â€“ make certain that you do not miss out any symptom.
4. Write down your personal information and any changes that you have noticed recently.
5. Make a list of all medicines, vitamins, and supplements that you are taking.
6. Tell your doctor of any other health condition that you may have.
7. Take a trusted friend along with you who can help you by reminding you of any symptoms that you have missed.
8. Jot down the questions that you are going to ask your doctor.
Your hypothyroidism could also be the result of a number of other factors such as:
Some people who develop an inflammatory disorder known as Hashimotoâ€™s thyroiditis most commonly suffer hypothyroidism. In autoimmune disorders, the immune system produces antibodies that attack its own tissues. The same thing happens in the case of the thyroid gland, and the antibodies affect the thyroid glandâ€™s ability to produce hormones.
Sometimes, removing a large portion of, or even the entire thyroid gland can cut down or stop hormone production altogether.
Treating cancer through radiation, can sometimes affect the thyroid gland which will stop production of the hormones.
Use of certain medicines leads to hypothyroidism â€“ for example, lithium which is used to treat psychiatric disorders.
Sometimes, the pituitary gland does not produce enough thyroid-stimulating hormone leading to hypothyroidism.
In some cases children are born with a defective thyroid gland or no thyroid gland at all.
Sometimes a few women develop hypothyroidism during or after pregnancy.
Iodized salt is essential for the production of thyroid hormones. In some parts of the world, iodine deficiency is common.
If you show any of the symptoms given earlier, you should consult an endocrinologist who will check if you suffer from hypothyroidism. And, should you test positive, he will suggest a line of treatment. It is usually treated with radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications to normalize the thyroid function. And, if you have permanent hypothyroidism, you are treated with a daily dose of synthetic thyroid hormone which is quite safe and harmless, but effective.