The symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland are fairly general and common. They stem from a metabolic slow-down, and include such things as weight gain, constipation, fatigue, and depression. Table 01 If you have suffered from constipation on and off for much of your life, chances are it is not because of your thyroid. However, if your symptoms start suddenly and last for more than a few weeks, consult your doctor. Likewise, gaining and losing a few pounds every once in a while is normal, but if you have been putting on weight for some time without having changed your diet or activity level, you might want to get your thyroid checked.
Table 1. Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Fatigue Weight gain Constipation Hair loss Sensitivity to cold temperatures Depression Mental slowness, memory problems Reduced sex drive Heavy menstruation Muscle cramps Dry skin Numbness and tingling in hands and feet
Hypothyroidism occurs most often in women over the age of 50. Ten times as many women as men have an underactive thyroid. Older women are especially vulnerable. An estimated 8% to 10% of women over the age of 50 have underactive thyroid glands.
Women who have recently given birth are at risk for thyroid problems. Thyroid dysfunction complicates 5% to 9% of pregnancies, typically resulting in two to eight months of overactivity (hyperthyroidism) followed by two to eight months of underactivity (hypothyroidism). This is called post-partum thyroiditis—it usually goes away on its own, but a quarter of women who have it develop a permanently underactive gland.
A family history of thyroid problems increases the likelihood of hypothyroidism.
People who have diabetes, anemia caused by failure to absorb vitamin B12 (pernicious anemia), or insufficiency of the adrenal glands are more prone to the problem.
Having received prior radiation or x-ray treatments to the neck increases a person's risk for hypothyroidism. Many people who have hyperthyroidism get treated with thyroid irradiation. This makes them hypothyroid, and then they take medicine to normalize the thyroid level in their body.
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