Underactive thyroid symptoms in women occur when the thyroid gland produces insufficient quantities of hormones needed by the body in converting calories to energy. This hormone deficiency causes several unpleasant symptoms and health problems, like joint pain, obesity, heart disease and infertility. It should be noted that the condition may have been around for some time for a woman to exhibit the symptoms because an underactive thyroid rarely manifests itself early on.
The treatment for underactive thyroid symptoms in women helps in restoring the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. It also aids in preventing complications from happening especially during pregnancy as hypothyroidism increases the chances of miscarriage and birth defects. An underactive thyroid is usually treated using synthetic thyroid hormone. The hormone, which is sometimes administered intravenously, is prescribed together with steroid medications to treat extremely low thyroid hormones.
Causes of underactive thyroid gland in women
Underactive thyroid symptoms in women develop when the normal production of hormones in the thyroid gland is disrupted causing it to produce low amounts of the said hormones. This butterfly-shaped gland below the Adam’s apple produces thyroxine and triiodothyronine. These hormones help in regulating the body’s metabolism to convert carbohydrates and fats into energy. The thyroid hormones also work in regulating body temperature, heart rate and protein production. When there is a shortage of these essential hormones, the condition is medically referred to as hypothyroidism.
A lot of factors can upset the thyroid gland causing it to produce insufficient amounts of hormones, and these are:
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
This is a form of autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks itself, thus, affecting the ability of the thyroid gland to produce the right amounts of thyroid hormones.
- Adverse effects of treatment for hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism is the exact opposite of hypothyroidism wherein the thyroid gland produces excessive amounts of hormones. However, medications used in restoring normal thyroid function have been found to permanently lower down the level of hormone production.
- Certain medications
Lithium is notorious for reducing the ability of the thyroid gland to create ample amounts of hormones. This medication is used by people suffering from some form of psychiatric disorder.
- Radiation therapy and thyroid surgery
Radiation therapy on the neck or head can have a huge effect on the proper functioning of the thyroid gland which could result in slower hormone production. The same could also happen after a thyroid surgery.
In some cases, hypothyroidism may already be present at birth or it could also be the result of severe iodine deficiency, pregnancy or pituitary disorder. The chances of developing an underactive thyroid gland is high among women who are in their 60s, those who have gone through thyroidectomy or radiation therapy in the upper chest or neck, and individuals who have undergone hyperthyroidism treatment. Hypothyroidism runs in the family as well, so having a parent or relative with the disorder increases the odds of having hypothyroidism too.
Recognizing underactive thyroid symptoms in women
An underactive thyroid slows down the body’s metabolism which is manifested in a variety of ways. However, women should be aware that the symptoms develop slowly making the disease difficult to detect in its early phase. Among the signs of an underactive thyroid gland are:
- Sudden weight gain
Affected individuals will have an increase in weight of up to 10 pounds due to reduced metabolism. Severe lethargy and emotional eating also contribute to the weight gain.
Hypothyroidism causes one to become seemingly tired all the time. This gets worse because the affected individual doesn’t get sufficient sleep as a result of other symptoms which cause discomfort. Affected individuals often find themselves sluggish and lethargic.
- Muscle weakness
Hypothyroidism causes muscle weakness and soreness or tenderness in the body. The joints become inflamed and painful.
- Hair and skin changes
A woman with an underactive thyroid gland will have a bloated face and drooping eyelids. Her skin becomes dry, the palms of her hands appear orangey and her hair turns dry and brittle.
Hypothyroidism also affects the woman’s mood, causing feelings of loneliness, sadness, hopelessness and senselessness. The disorder also causes depression.
Those who have underactive thyroid glands may have increased sensitivity to cold, slow heart rate, high level of blood cholesterol, heavy or irregular periods, constipation and impaired memory. If left untreated, the symptoms may aggravate and lead to a life-threatening condition called myxedema which is characterized by decreased breathing and body temperature, low blood pressure, unresponsiveness and sometimes coma.
Treatment for underactive thyroid gland
Treating an underactive thyroid gland involves taking synthetic thyroid hormone, which comes in the form of levothyroxine, and other steroidal drugs. Underactive thyroid symptoms in women usually alleviate once treatment has been administered. Those who have permanently underactive thyroid glands may need to take thyroid hormones for life.
Underactive Thyroid Symptoms in Women Pictures