the word hypothyroidism written on a chalkboard

An Overview of Hypothyroidism

The thyroid gland is a vital part of the function of hormones throughout the body, as well as controls how quickly the body uses energy and monitors proteins. The main hormones produced by the thyroid are T3 and T4, and they regulate the growth and function of the other hormones. Your body has almost 50 hormones and steroids that are controlled by this small, walnut-sized gland directly below the Adam’s apple. It also produces calcitonin, which is very significant in maintaining calcium equilibrium throughout the body for a healthy skeleton.

Maintaining an active and healthy thyroid is important, but thyroid disease can cause the gland to become either underactive, called hypothyroidism, or overactive, hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism is a disease that is marked by the reduction and eventual cessation of hormone production by the thyroid that is required to operate the body properly.


Children and teens who have developed hypothyroidism experience side effects like delayed puberty, delayed development of permanent teeth, and slow physical and mental growth when untreated. Infants have also been born with no thyroid, requiring chronic hormonal treatments. The primary contribution to hypothyroidism, however, is a deficiency of the mineral iodine.

The first warning signs and symptoms for an adult with an underactive thyroid include: fatigue, constipation, dry skin, unexplained weight gain, sensitivity to cold, muscle weakness, puffy face, high cholesterol, pain and swelling in joints, muscle aches either tender or stiff, heavier menstrual periods, thinning hair, depression, slower heart rate, and impaired memory.

Many of the symptoms can go unnoticed as they are also symptomatic of other conditions leading to the gradual increasing in severity of hypothyroidism in individuals. It is important to seek definitive tests if you suspect you are exhibiting symptoms. When you have noticed several of these signs, the easiest way to handle the situation is to see your doctor and ask for a blood test or have the blood test as an early warning.

There is nothing mystical about hypothyroidism. As the thyroid continues to decrease in strength, these symptoms and signs become more evident. If hypothyroidism goes untreated for years, serious health issues, such as extremely low blood pressure, decreased breathing and body temperature, or myxedema, a waxy swelling of the skin and tissue. Without treatment, systems controlled by the thyroid will go unregulated and unresponsiveness and could result in coma.


In order to avoid a complete shutdown of the systems regulated by hormones and steroids, schedule a visit to your doctor. The doctor then determines the level of thyroid hormones that are being produced, and the results are usually available within a day or two. You will know for sure if hypothyroidism is the cause of your symptoms. If caught early, treatment involves taking medication daily. If the disease has progressed, various other therapies exist to the more severe forms of the condition.

Last Updated: March 09, 2016