An underactive thyroid gland or hypothyroidism can cause a wide range of different symptoms. Hypothyroidism is a medical condition that happens when the thyroid gland is underactive. The thyroid gland is responsible for producing the hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine. These hormones regulate the activity of the metabolism, which is the system that generates energy for the body. The thyroid gland is located in the neck but the hormones that it produces have far reaching effects, throughout the entire body. Almost every organ in the body is affected by the thyroid hormones. This means that an underactive thyroid can result in a large number of varied symptoms.
Common symptoms of an underactive thyroid include fatigue, weakness an intolerance to the cold, weight gain, lifeless hair, dry skin, aches or muscle pain, constipation, fluid retention, mental sluggishness and depression. In some cases, other less common conditions may be experienced, including hoarseness, irregular menstrual periods or heavier menstrual periods, loss of libido, infertility, pain and numbness in the hands and confusion or memory loss in elderly patients.
If proper treatment is not received by a person who has hypothyroidism, then other symptoms can develop. These late symptoms include puffiness in the hands and feet, hair loss, thickening of the skin and a decreased ability to taste and smell.
In the most severe cases, an underactive thyroid can lead to serious and even life threatening complications, if the correct treatment is not received. These complications include problems during pregnancy, heart disease and myxedema coma.
A particular individual who has an underactive thyroid will not experience all of the possible symptoms, and the symptoms that are experienced by two people who have hypothyroidism can be very different. Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as a swelling of the thyroid gland or goiter, can also occur in a person who has an overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism. There are also a number of other conditions that can also cause the symptoms of hypothyroidism. The variety of symptoms that can be experienced during hypothyroidism can make this condition difficult to diagnose without conducting blood tests to measure the levels of thyroid hormones.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism usually develop gradually and become worse over time if the condition is not treated. Hypothyroidism is a progressive condition and the amount of medication that is needed can change over time. Patients who have been diagnosed with an underactive thyroid need to be aware of the symptoms so that they can recognize any worsening of their condition or any indication that they need a change in the dosage of their medication.