The Lowdown on the Hypothyroidism Slowdown
Dry skin, brittle nails, a lack of energy and mood swings — everyday health problems like these can be caused by many different factors, including stress, an insufficient diet and depression. However, unless you’ve come face to face with a thyroid problem, chances are that you don’t hear much about what a big impact this little gland can have on your health.
What Does the Thyroid Do?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is situated at the base of the front of your neck. Your thyroid influences virtually every organ in the body, and the hormones it secretes into the bloodstream play a vital role in regulating metabolism — the rate at which our bodies convert food and oxygen to energy.
What Is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, is when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones to meet the needs of the body. It’s a common condition that can cause a host of health problems, including a lack of energy and mood swings.
What Causes Hypothyroidism?
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disorder known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. However, hypothyroidism may also be caused by a number of other factors, including thyroid surgery, radiation therapy, certain medications like lithium and, in some cases, pregnancy, or iodine inefficiency.
What Are the Symptoms?
Hypothyroidism can differ from person to person. For some, the onset is so gradual that it’s hardly noticeable; in others, the effects come on abruptly over the course of a few weeks or months. Some of these symptoms include:
- Weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight
- Coarse, dry hair
- Dry, rough pale skin
- Hair loss
- Muscle cramps and frequent muscle aches
- Abnormal menstrual cycles
- Decreased libido
Blood tests are the only way to reliably confirm a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your healthcare provider and ask to be tested for an underactive thyroid.