Hypothyroidism means your thyroid is not making enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck. It makes hormones that control the way your body uses energy.
In vertebrate anatomy, the thyroid gland or simply, the thyroid, is one of the largest endocrine glands in the body, and is not to be confused with the “parathyroid glands” (a completely different set of glands). The thyroid gland is found in the neck, inferior to (below) the thyroid cartilage (also known as the ‘Adam’s Apple’) and at approximately the same level as the cricoid cartilage. The thyroid controls how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins, and controls how sensitive the body should be to other hormones.
Having a thyroid condition — hypothyroidism in particular — can make losing weight more of a challenge. Thyroid patient advocate Mary Shomon helps you find out the unique and successful ways thyroid patients can lose weight and keep it off.
The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism vary widely, depending on the severity of the hormone deficiency. But in general, any problems you do have tend to develop slowly, often over a number of years.
THERE IS NO KNOWN WAY TO PREVENT HYPOTHYROIDISM. “One thing that we tell people is that they didn’t do anything to cause this,” Dr. Cappola said. The most common cause of thyroid hormone deficiency is an inherited predisposition to develop an inflammation of the thyroid gland, called Hashimoto’s disease. In other cases, hypothyroidism is triggered by certain medications, like lithium or interferon; then the problem is often reversible.
Julie Amato of Simsbury, Conn., had been a high-energy person. “I ran five to seven miles a day and was always the one to say ‘Go, go, go.’”
But things changed after the birth of her first child, and Amato, 35, felt “horrible. My hands and feet were always cold. My periods were much heavier, and I had so little energy that just getting up the stairs was a major effort. I thought I was dying.
What is Hashimoto’s disease?
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid. It also is called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (theye-royd-EYET-uhss). The thyroid is a small gland in the front of the neck. The thyroid makes hormones called T3 and T4 that regulate how the body uses energy. Thyroid hormone levels are controlled by the pituitary, which is a pea-sized gland in the brain. It makes thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which triggers the thyroid to make thyroid hormone.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Normally, antibodies produced by the immune system help protect the body against viruses, bacteria and other foreign substances. An autoimmune disease is when your immune system produces antibodies that attack your body’s tissues and/or organs. With Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, antibodies attack the thyroid and keep it from producing enough hormones.
The thyroid is a small gland located below the skin and muscles at the front of the neck, just at the spot where a bow tie would rest. It’s brownish red, with left and right halves (called lobes) that look like a butterfly’s wings. It’s light like a butterfly, too, and usually weighs less than an ounce.
Standard treatment for hypothyroidism involves daily use of the synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine (Levothroid, Synthroid, others). This oral medication restores adequate hormone levels, shifting your body back into normal gear.