What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism (or an under active thyroid) simply refers to a condition whereby the thyroid gland does not produce sufficient quantities of the thyroid hormone to meet the body's needs.
Although hypothyroidism is quite common the majority of sufferers only suffer from what is known as sub clinical hypothyroidism (mild). Only a small percentage of people actually have full blown (overt) hypothyroidism.
Anyone can suffer from hypothyroidism but it has a tendency to be affect females more than males, particularly those of 50 years and above.
What does the Thyroid Gland look like?
The thyroid gland can be found in the front of the neck. It is relatively small and shaped like a butterfly. The hormones that it produces, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) play a major role in controlling and stimulating vital functions throughout the body.
The diagnosis of Hypothyroidism.
If hypothyroidism is left untreated it can cause serious health problems.
It is however relatively easy to diagnose whether or not someone has a thyroid disorder. The patient is simply asked to provide a blood sample which is then tested to see how much of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4) and the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is present.
Further tests designed to check for cholesterol levels and antithyroid antibodies may also be carried out if your doctor feels that they are necessary.
The results of these tests will be assessed and a decision made as to whether you are to be prescribed medication or whether you are simply to have your condition monitored at regular intervals (normally six monthly or yearly).
Treatment of Hypothyroidism
It is generally accepted that prescription drugs are unlikely to actually cure a patients hypothyroidism, they are administered primarily to artificially regulate the hormone levels.
One of the most common drugs that are prescribed to hypothyroidism patients is called levothyroxine which is simply a synthetic thyroid hormone.
It is important that anyone taking levothyroxine makes their doctor fully aware of any other medication they may be taking as some drugs can affect the potency (increase or decrease) of the levothyroxine you have been prescribed.
In addition it is may also be worth considering making some changes to your diet to reduce the amount of fibre consumed as eating a high fibre diet may result in you requiring a higher dose of levothyroxine.
Factors that can affect your likelihood of suffering from hypothyroidism.
Whether you suffer from an underactive or overactive thyroid can in some instances be traced back to your genetics. It does not however mean that if your parents do not suffer from a thyroid disorder you will not either. In a lot of cases it has been found that the condition can skip a generation and it could in fact be the grandparents of the sufferer who passed on the gene.
Lifestyle can also be influential in determining how susceptible you may be to contracting a thyroid disorder. Smoking can, for example, can significantly increase your risk of having thyroid problems.