Typical symptoms of hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is usually difficult to detect as the symptoms are relatively nonspecific. In addition, only minor symptoms are noticeable at the beginning - therefore, the malfunction is often detected late.
The first symptoms that can occur with hypothyroidism are:
- an increased need for sleep
- depressive moods
- difficulty concentrating
- slowed reflexes
- feeling cold
In addition, it can lead to weight gain despite loss of appetite, an increase in blood lipid levels, muscle weakness, a harsh voice as well as hair loss and brittle nails. In contrast, a goiter rarely occurs.
It is particularly difficult to detect hypothyroidism in the elderly. In most cases, only a few symptoms occur, which are often attributed to the advanced age of the patients. These symptoms include, for example, a decline in physical and mental performance.
Hypothyroidism in children
Children with hypothyroidism often suffer from slowed physical and mental development. In infants, the disorder can be manifested by a muscle and drinking weakness. In older children, growth is often compromised. In addition, the children are often overweight. It is also typical that puberty is delayed.
Diagnosis of hypothyroidism
If there is a suspicion of hypothyroidism, the doctor will usually perform a blood test as a first step. In this way he can determine the concentration of the hormone TSH. If there is a hypothalamic or pituitary disorder, the TSH level is lowered. On the other hand, if the thyroid tissue is no longer working properly, the value is increased.
In addition to the TSH value can be determined by the blood test, the concentration of thyroid hormones. These are at the lower limit of the normal range or below in case of hypothyroidism. If certain antibodies are detected in the blood, this indicates Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
In addition to the blood test, imaging techniques such as ultrasound and scintigraphy can provide important information. If there is inflammation of the thyroid, the organ appears relatively dark in the ultrasound. In a scintigraphy, the patient gets a radioactive substance injected into the vein. This is not or only slightly absorbed in a hypofunction of the thyroid gland.
Proper treatment of hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is usually not curable and must be treated with drugs for a lifetime. If the medication is well adjusted, a normal life is possible for those affected. The life expectancy is not reduced by the hypothyroidism.
The aim of the treatment is to remedy the hormone deficiency that has arisen. Therefore, the missing thyroid hormones are delivered to the body via tablets containing synthetically produced thyroxine. If iodine deficiency is the cause of the disorder, iodine tablets may be prescribed.
As a rule, the affected patients are first given a low dose of thyroxine. This is slowly increased in conjunction with regular blood tests until a sufficient dose is determined. This procedure is important because overdosed thyroxine preparations can cause side effects such as cardiac arrhythmias. Also in the further course of treatment regular check-ups are necessary.
Myxedema is rare
If hypothyroidism is not recognized or is not treated properly for a long time, a myxedema coma may rarely occur. Such a coma can also be triggered by infections or surgery. Typically, symptoms such as low blood pressure, decreased body temperature, slower breathing, and weakness or motionlessness occur. Such a condition must be treated immediately intensive care.
Hyperthyroidism during pregnancy
During pregnancy, mild hyperthyroidism may be enough to cause miscarriage or premature birth. If it is already known prior to pregnancy that such a hypofunction is present, the thyroid gland must therefore be examined regularly during pregnancy. You may also need to increase the dosage of the medication slightly.
If there is suspicion of hypothyroidism in a healthy woman, the concentration of thyroid hormones in the blood should be determined immediately. For women who have ever had their thyroid or their close relatives, such an examination should best be done before the pregnancy.
If hypothyroidism is present, it can be treated by the administration of hormones. If these are dosed correctly, the treatment has no side effects.
Hypothyroidism in children
If a desire to have children is unfulfilled over a longer period of time, it should also be thought of as a cause of hypothyroidism. Because when the body notices that the concentration of thyroid hormones in the body is too low, the hypothalamus releases more of the hormone TRH. This stimulates the activity of the thyroid gland.
At the same time, however, the release of the hormone prolactin is promoted. Increased prolactin levels may disrupt oocyte maturation or ovulate.
As a rule, it is not possible to actively prevent hypothyroidism. The only exception is when the hypofunction is triggered by an iodine deficiency. Therefore always pay attention to a sufficiently high iodine intake. This is especially true for pregnant women and nursing mothers, as they have an increased need for iodine. Possibly, the additional intake of iodine tablets may be useful for them.
Larger amounts of iodine are among others in the following foods:
- Sea fish and mussels
- Dairy products such as butter and yoghurt
- Black tea
In addition, the use of iodized salt is recommended.