Underactive Thyroid ( Hypothyroidism)

Hypothyroidism is a condition that develops when the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormones help control body temperature, heart rate, growth, and weight.

What causes or increases my risk for hypothyroidism?

  • A family history of hypothyroidism
  • Age 60 years or older or being female
  • Autoimmune disease, such as inflammation of your thyroid, or Hashimoto disease
  • Thyroid surgery, head or neck radiation therapy, or medicines such as lithium, sedatives, or narcotics
  • Thyroid cancer, a goiter, or a viral infection
  • Low iodine level
  • Down syndrome or Turner syndrome

What are the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism?

The signs and symptoms may develop slowly, sometimes over several years.

  • Exhaustion, depression, or irritability
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Muscle aches, headaches, weakness, or trouble concentrating
  • Dry, flaky skin, brittle nails, or thinning hair
  • Recent weight gain without overeating, or constipation
  • Heavy or irregular monthly periods
  • Puffiness around your eyes or swelling in your hands and feet
  • Low heart rate, changes in your blood pressure

How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and what medicines you take. He or she will ask about your medical history and if anyone in your family has hypothyroidism. A blood test will show your thyroid hormone level.

How is hypothyroidism treated?

Thyroid hormone replacement medicine may bring your thyroid hormone level back to normal. You will need to take this medicine for the rest of your life to control hypothyroidism. It is important to take the medicine every day as directed. You will be given instructions for what to do if you miss a dose. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on other medicines you may need.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

  • Synthroid
  • levothyroxine
  • Armour Thyroid
  • Levoxyl
  • Tirosint

How can I manage hypothyroidism?

  • Get more iodine. The thyroid gland uses iodine to work correctly and to make thyroid hormones. Your healthcare provider may tell you to eat foods that are rich in iodine. He or she will tell you how much of these foods to eat. Milk and seafood are good sources of iodine. You may also need iodine supplements.
  • Keep track of your blood pressure and weight:

Check your blood pressure and write it down as often as directed. It is important to measure your blood pressure on the same arm and in the same position each time. Keep track of your blood pressure readings, along with the date and time you took them. Take this record with you to your followup visits.

Weigh yourself daily before breakfast after you urinate. Weight gain may be a sign of extra fluid in your body. Keep track of your daily weights and take the record with you to your followup visits.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) or have someone call if:

  • You have sudden chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • You have a seizure.
  • You feel like you are going to faint.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have diarrhea, tremors, or trouble sleeping.
  • Your legs, ankles, or feet are swollen.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • You have pain and swelling in your muscles and joints.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or you have a rash.
  • Your signs and symptoms return or get worse, even after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.