Dr. Stephen Smith, an Integrative Medicine Physician, tells us all about the problematic hypothyroid condition.
In This Article:
- What Is Hypothyroidism?
- What Are the Causes of Hypothyroidism?
- What Are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
- What Is the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Test?
- What Are the Free T3 and Free T4 Tests?
- How Do You Treat It?
Hypothyroid Symptoms and Diagnosis
What Is Hypothyroidism?
According to Dr. Smith, hypothyroidism is a condition "often misdiagnosed or just completely missed." Hypothyroidism is a chronic condition where the thyroid is under-active. This means it is failing to produce enough of the important hormones you need for normal functioning.
What Are the Causes of Hypothyroidism?
There are many reasons for the thyroid gland to underperform. Here are the most common causes:
In some cases, the immune system may confuse thyroid gland cells as germs, bacteria, or viruses and tries to attack them. This reduces the number of thyroid gland cells in the body and, inevitably, the number of thyroid hormones as well. Examples of autoimmune diseases that affect the thyroid gland are atrophic thyroiditis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
The thyroid gland is located under Adam’s apple and along the windpipe in the front neck. People who receive radiation treatments in the neck area run the risk of losing some or all of their thyroid function. People with thyroid cancer, Graves’ disease, or nodular goiter can undergo radiation treatment.
Thyroid gland surgery
People who have thyroid nodules, Graves’ disease, or thyroid cancer will sometimes undergo thyroid gland surgery. If part of the whole thyroid is removed, this will affect its ability to produce hormones.
Some babies may be born with an underdeveloped or partially formed thyroid. In some rare cases, they may also be born without a thyroid. There are also cases where babies have ectopic thyroids. This means they were born with the entire thyroid or part of the thyroid in the wrong place.
This is a condition where the thyroid gland is inflamed due to a viral infection or an autoimmune attack. This condition causes the thyroid to empty all of its hormones into the blood supply.
Hypothyroidism is one of the side effects of interleukin-2, alpha, interferon, amiodarone, and lithium.
The thyroid gland needs iodine for hormone production but it needs to be the right amount. Having too much or too little iodine can lead to hypothyroidism.
The pituitary gland lets the thyroid gland know how many hormones are needed. If there are problems with the pituitary gland, this can lead to problems with the thyroid as well.
There are other rare disorders that can affect the thyroid and its functions. There are some disorders that cause the thyroid to have abnormal substances. Examples of these rare disorders are amyloidosis, hemochromatosis, and sarcoidosis.
What Are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
Dr. Smith identifies a few physical signs of someone with a hypothyroid: "thinning hair is a problem for a lot of people. And look at the outer third of your eyebrow. If it's gone, that's a sign that you have [a] hypothyroid." Other hypothyroid symptoms include:
- Weight gain
- Slow reflexes
- Brittle nails
- Slow cognitive function (ex: impaired memory)
- Increased temperature sensitivity (cold)
- Dry skin
- Puffy face
- Muscle weakness, aches, stiffening, and tenderness
- Elevated cholesterol level
- Swollen, painful, and stiff joints
- Slower heart rate
- Enlarged goiter (thyroid gland)
What Is the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Test?
The Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) Test is the first test most doctors will run to diagnose hypothyroidism in patients. According to Dr. Smith, The TSH "measures the hormones coming out of your pituitary gland to stimulate the thyroid."
But, Dr. Smith shares that the range for acceptable and normal TSH levels is quite wide. So it's possible to exhibit clinical signs and symptoms even if your results are well within the acceptable and normal range. This is especially true if the results are in the high range of normal.
What Are the Free T3 and Free T4 Tests?
In addition to the TSH test, Dr. Smith recommends two additional tests: the Free T3 and Free T4 tests. The thyroid gland produces two main hormones: triiodothyronine hormone (T3) and thyroxine hormone (T4). The results of the Free T3 and Free T4 tests can assess thyroid functioning.
Some doctors will order the Total T3 and Total T4 tests instead. But Dr. Smith does not recommend this. He prefers the Free T3 and Free T4 tests because they measure the level of active hormones. He explains: "When you get a check from a job, it says you earned, let’s say, $500. A check is not for $500, it’s for something less. That lesser amount is what the Free T3 is. That’s what you have available to spend."
Dr. Smith stresses: "If you’re not getting those labs and you have hypothyroid symptoms, you’re just not getting the best labs."
How Do You Treat It?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for hypothyroidism but there are ways to manage it. Doctors can try to replace the hormones that the thyroid can’t produce. Most people with hypothyroidism are treated as outpatients and aren’t usually required to stay in the hospital. There are also thyroid supplements available to help support thyroid function and health.
Do you want to hear from Dr. Smith himself? Watch this video from Agape Nutrition:
There is an increased risk of developing hypothyroidism if you: are a woman, have type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, have had thyroid surgery, have a family history of thyroid disease or autoimmune disease, have had radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medication, or if your upper neck and chest have been exposed to radiation. If you have some of these risk factors and you are experiencing some of the symptoms listed above, let your doctor know.
Are you experiencing any of these hypothyroid symptoms? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments section.
DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. None of the nutritional products mentioned are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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