Hypothyroidism is the latest topic of discussion, as esteemed consultant endocrinologist Dr Jesse Kumar tells us what the condition is, who is most at risk, and how exactly one can be affected by hypothyroidism.
Can you detail what hypothyroidism is?
Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland is not functioning properly. It is a very common condition. The occurrence of an underactive thyroid increases with age, usually due to an autoimmune condition, where we double up antibodies against the thyroid gland, which tends to affect the thyroid gland by blocking its function.
Once the thyroid gland is blocked, the amount of secretion of the two main types of hormones (T2 and T3) falls lower than the reference range. The thyroid gland is controlled by the pituitary gland, which is situated at the bottom of the brain. The pituitary gland produces a hormone called the thyroid stimulating hormone.
This hormone comes down to the thyroid gland, and when the thyroid gland is blocked, this hormone level goes up, trying to stimulate this gland more and more to secrete the hormones when it is blocked. This is exactly what we see on blood tests. This is known as hypothyroidism.
When patients have hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, most patients can experience the following:
- feeling tired
- weight gain
- brain fog
- feeling cold
- memory problems
- feeling sleepy
Who is most at risk of hypothyroidism?
The prevalence of hypothyroidism increases with age, and is more common in women. If the patient also has an autoimmune condition (or has had one previously), and has a family history of hypothyroidism, they are at a high risk.
How can one be affected by hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism can have a variety of effects. Clinically, patients can suffer from constipation, period abnormalities, and poor nail and hair growth (as well as the symptoms mentioned above). In the long run, if it's left untreated, it could become a medical emergency. Sometimes, hypothyroidism can cause heart problems and muscle weakness.
How is hypothyroidism treated? Might it affect someone again even after treatment?
It can be treated very effectively through medication. Once adequately treated, the condition is then stabilised. Occasionally, one’s thyroid can fluctuate again, due to things like pregnancy, medication, and/or weight gain. This is why continued surveillance is important.
How can you avoid hypothyroidism, or is it avoidable?
Having a healthy lifestyle, including a healthy diet, is the best way to prevent triggering hypothyroidism. Sleeping well, reducing stress levels, and not smoking or drinking can do the world of good in terms of prevention.
Dr Jesse Kumar is a highly-skilled consultant endocrinologist who specialises in thyroid disorders. Contact him today to book a consultation with him via his Top Doctors profile today.