Hypothyroidism is the term to describe an underactive thyroid. This means the gland is producing less hormone than it should which in turn causes the metabolism to run too slow.
Dr Renee Hoenderkamp, GP and medical writer, touched on the subject in her online video blog.
She explained: “I have a vested interested in this topic as I lost my thyroid to a nasty lump about seven years ago. Across that time I have built up lots of experience, done lots of research and been through the mill.”
The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, just in front of the windpipe.
She said: “[The thyroid is] really important because it produces hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) – the latter being the more active.”
Triiodothyronine controls the metabolism. Dr Renee said: “The thyroid gland is the engine or motor for your body – when it goes wrong, acting too quickly or slowly, the symptoms can be awful and sometimes life-threatening.
“When the thyroid works too slowly it’s called hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. The majority of patients we, as GPs, see have an underactive thyroid.”
Who gets thyroid issues?
Dr Renee explained: “It’s definitely a woman’s problem – I’m one of them. One in fifty women have a thyroid problem, so it’s big. One in 1000 men – not so big. It increases with age, whether you’re a man or a woman.”
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
Thyroid UK lists all the symptoms, including excessive tiredness, cold extremities, loss of libido and heat/cold intolerance.
Dr Renee added: “It’s important to recognise that lots of these symptoms can be caused by lots of other conditions. Just because it is a sign of hypothyroidism doesn’t mean that’s what the cause is.”
NHS Choices says an underactive thyroid can often be successfully treated by taking daily hormone tablets to replace the hormones your thyroid isn’t making.
It is very important that an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) is diagnosed as soon as possible. You should see your GP and ask for a blood test if you repeatedly have symptoms of an underactive thyroid.
What are the causes of an underactive thyroid?
Dr Renee said: “They’re vast and lost of them are a blog in their own right. But sometimes in an auto-immune condition called Hashimoto’s the thyroid is attacked within the body and starts to be destroyed and therefore stops working – or gradually stops working.
“Sometimes it’s genetic and you can be born without a thyroid. That’s a medical emergency…