a typewriter typing a medical examination report that is titled thyroid

Risk Factors of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition marked by an underperforming thyroid gland. Though anyone at any age can develop an underactive thyroid, there are a few risk factors that cause some people to become more prone to the condition. These include:

Being 50 Years Old or Older

The risk is higher if you're a woman. Women have several times the risk of men when it comes to developing hypothyroidism. Medical experts don't agree on a consensus as to why older women have higher risks except that autoimmune diseases also strike women more often than men. Furthermore, many women have thyroiditis after pregnancy. Though the overwhelming majority of women are successfully treated, there's still a risk of hypothyroidism later on.

Having Had Radiation Treatments to the Neck

Even careful radiation treatments are bound to do some damage to the thyroid and cause it to underproduce thyroid hormones. Repeated exposure to radiation or heavy metals also puts thyroid function at risk.

Partial Removal of the Thyroid

Of course, if the some of the thyroid is removed, it is less likely to produce adequate levels of hormones for normal body function.

Pregnant Women

The hormones of pregnancy seem to cause an increase in the risk of contracting hypothyroidism.

Undergoing an Anti-Thyroid Treatment.

Some drugs may cause the thyroid to become underactive. There's a surprisingly long list of drugs that can put you at risk for hypothyroidism. They include lithium, immunosuppressant drugs, interleukin-4, monoclonal antibodies, and cordarone. A bone marrow transplant can also put you at higher risk for hypothyroidism.

Having an Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, seem to increase the likelihood of developing hypothyroidism as well.

Iodine Deficiency

An iodine deficiency can add to your risk of hypothyroidism, but people in the developed world rarely get hypothyroidism because they don't get enough iodine. One of the reasons for this is because salt is iodized, and certain foods are naturally rich in iodine, such as seafood.

Too Much Iodine

Surprisingly, too much iodine can also cause the thyroid to be sluggish. People who have normal levels of iodine should avoid additional supplements.

Foods That Cause Goiter

Goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland. Some foods can lead to the condition if eaten in large quantities, and if they're eaten raw. These mostly include the cole crops, including turnips, cabbage, collard greens, cauliflower, and broccoli. People who already are at risk for autoimmune disease or have thyroid antibodies should be careful of them. There is currently much medical debate on whether individuals who have hypothyroidism should avoid soy.


Hypothyroidism is yet another disease that can arise from smoking. This is because cigarettes have thiocyanate among their other ingredients. This chemical attacks the thyroid gland and worsens the symptoms of thyroid conditions such as Graves' and Hashimoto's disease.

Surgery or Trauma to the Neck

In some cases, patients experience hypothyroidism after they have undergone neck surgery. Other people have hypothyroidism after they've suffered an injury like whiplash. This type of hypothyroidism typically isn’t chronic, however.

Last Updated: February 08, 2016