Hypothyroidism is sometimes known as an underactive thyroid. If you’re diagnosed with either, it’s helpful to know that they’re both the same condition but with a slightly different name.
Hypothyroidism and underactive thyroid mean that the thyroid gland can’t produce enough of a hormone called thyroxine. Thyroxine is the hormone that controls how much energy your body uses and is responsible for balancing your metabolism.
Think about it in terms of the battery on your smartphone. You may suddenly notice that even though you’re still using it for the same amount of time every day, the battery runs out quickly and needs more frequent charging to keep it going. If your body doesn’t have enough thyroxine, a similar type of thing happens and over time it can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms such as depression, fatigue, muscle cramping and weight gain.
Who gets hypothyroidism?
It’s a condition that affects both men and women, though it’s more common in women. One reason for this is because hypothyroidism is known to be an auto-immune condition and these tend to be more prevalent in females than in males.
Hypothyroidism is usually most common in people aged over 60, but can occur at any age or stage of life.
In fact, children can develop it too, and it can be present from birth. It’s possible to be born with an underdeveloped thyroid, which will need to be corrected with treatment. This will usually be taken for life.
How common is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is actually a relatively common condition globally. There are very few countries across the world that don’t have any cases at all. Across all genders, it’s estimated that between 1-5% of the population globally has some level of hypothyroidism.
In some countries, cases are caused by diets that don’t contain enough iodine, which is found in foods such as seafood. Similarly, it can also occur when you don’t get enough dairy products in your diet too.
However, there are also other factors that increase susceptibility to hypothyroidism, such as genetic predisposition, your ethnicity and even social factors such as whether or not you smoke.
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What causes hypothyroidism?
There are a range of reasons why someone might have hypothyroidism. It can be caused by many different factors.
You may be genetically predisposed to an underactive thyroid if one or more close blood relatives has it. It’s always worth talking to your family to see if there are any diagnosed cases that you might not have been aware of.
It can be caused by your thyroid gland being attacked by your immune system (otherwise known as an auto-immune disease). Auto-immune conditions are defined as illnesses in which the body’s cells attack each other. They can end up causing problems with other organs in the body. Conditions such as coeliac disease, lupus and type 1 diabetes are all examples of auto-immune illnesses.
There is also a condition called Hashimoto’s disease, which is classed as another auto-immune illness, which causes some of the same symptoms of an underactive thyroid. This can lead to later development of hypothyroidism.
When your thyroid gland is attacked in this way, it produces less of the hormone thyroxine. This is the hormone you need to keep your metabolism in check as it converts fat into energy. Your diet plays an important role in keeping your thyroid gland functioning, lack of iodine from foods such as fresh fish, seafood and dairy products like cheese and milk can affect it too.
In some very rare cases, it’s possible to be born without a properly developed thyroid gland, which can cause an underactive thyroid to develop. In these cases, it’s important to detect it as soon as possible and start treatment. This will usually be for life.
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
If your body doesn’t produce enough thyroxine, you might feel as if you’re going in slow motion, as your body has to conserve all the energy it needs in order to carry on day to day.
Therefore, you might notice symptoms such as:
fatigue, which isn’t always improved by lots of sleep or taking a daytime nap
feeling cold, or you’ve become more sensitive to temperature changes
muscle aches and cramps
dry and parched skin. You might find you need to use more body cream or moisturiser than you normally would
tummy troubles such as constipation
sexual issues, including loss of sex drive.
Can hypothyroidism lead to other problems?
Many people who have hypothyroidism are diagnosed, start treatment and begin to feel better over time. It’s often a gradual recovery, but a noticeable one.
In some people who have the condition but perhaps don’t know they have it or have left it untreated, complications can occur. These include:
Goitre: if your thyroid gland has to work extra hard to produce the hormones it needs then it can sometimes become enlarged. Once this happens it can cause what’s known as a goitre, which is a swelling of the thyroid. This isn’t usually a painful condition but it can sometimes lead to occasional problems with swallowing.
Heart problems: in some patients, there can be an increased risk of heart disease if hypothyroidism is left untreated. This is because an underactive thyroid can sometimes cause an increase in LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream.
Myxoedema coma. This is an incredibly rare phenomenon, but it can cause feelings of intense cold and tiredness which can then lead to drowsiness and unconsciousness. pregnancy complications. If you’re pregnant and have undiagnosed hypothyroidism then this can cause several issues which will need medical care.
Anaemia (loss of iron), high blood pressure, muscle pain and weakness are all signs that shouldn’t be ignored.
In rare cases, miscarriage and stillbirth can occur.
If you have an underactive thyroid, our clinicians can help. We'll talk through treatment options with you and recommend the right medications for you.
What medications are there for hypothyroidism?
If you’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism or suspect you might have it, then you might want to have a chat with us about how we can help you with your treatment. We’re always happy to do that and discuss any questions you might have.
Treating hypothyroidism isn’t a hassle. The most common treatment for the condition is to take tablets every single day to make up for the deficit of thyroxine you have. It’s very similar to taking HRT for the symptoms of menopause, in order to balance your hormones.
You’ll take your medication daily and every so often have regular blood tests. These will ensure that the right levels of thyroid hormones are reached. You’ll often start off on a low dose treatment and this will be increased over time. When the correct dosage of medication is found for you, your blood tests will become less frequent (usually once a year) as you learn to manage your condition.
Is there a ‘best’ treatment for hypothyroidism?
The best treatment for hypothyroidism is something called Levothyroxine. This treatment comes in a tablet form and we’ll discuss the dosage and how and when to take it with you.
There is also another form of treatment that combines Levothyroxine with Triiodothyronine (also known as T3). This isn’t routinely used for people with hypothyroidism and is more likely to be recommended for patients who have had thyroid cancer, with a significant risk of it reoccurring.
Does hypothyroidism always need treatment?
Yes. It’s important that hypothyroidism is diagnosed and treated so that there is a reduced risk of long term complications, and so that you can start to feel better as soon as possible.
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How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?
The only way hypothyroidism can be accurately diagnosed is with a simple blood test to measure the levels of thyroxine in your body, as well as your thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level.
If your thyroxine levels are below what they should be, and your TSH levels are high, then it’s likely you’re suffering from hypothyroidism and need treatment with levothyroxine.
Can you order hypothyroidism tests online?
At Treated we can offer you a super fast, stress free service that can give you an accurate hypothyroidism test result in under ten minutes.
We’ll send you a test kit that tells you all you need to know. Simply follow the instructions carefully to make sure you get the most accurate result.
If your result indicates you have an underactive thyroid, you can talk to us about the next steps and how we can help make you feel better.
Can you get side effects from hypothyroidism treatment?
As with any medication or new treatment, there can be side effects for some people. The side effects for levothyroxine are the same, whether you take the branded or generic version of the medicine.
Some of the side effects from taking levothyroxine may include headache, sensitivity to changes in temperature and insomnia.
It’s important to talk to our clinician about any other medications you’re taking and any other treatments you’re having at the moment, as they’ll need to make sure this is the right treatment for you.
If you think you’re experiencing undesirable side effects from taking this medication, then we can talk to you about your treatment options. It might be that you need to increase or reduce your dose. We’ll help you on the path to feeling better.
Does hypothyroidism treatment always work?
Treatment for hypothyroidism is usually very effective indeed. It may take a little time to adjust to finding the right dose for you, but once this is achieved you should start to see improvements in your hormone levels. This will be monitored with regular blood testing.
Why should I buy hypothyroidism treatment online with Treated?
If you’re experiencing hypothyroidism symptoms for the first time, then it’s important that you discuss this with a clinician, in person. They can check you over fully and make sure you’re on the right path to diagnosis.
We can discuss your treatment options with you, and help you find the right dose of levothyroxine if you’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
If you’re already taking levothyroxine and want to take out a subscription with us, so you never miss a dose, the process is simple, quick and hassle free. We can deliver it to you, on a schedule that fits in with your life.
We’ll also provide you with ongoing support with your hypothyroidism. Our clinical team will check in with you on a regular basis to see how you’re getting on with your treatment. And if you want to ask us any questions about your medication, you can. You just need to log in to your account and send our clinician a message.
Disclaimer: The information provided on this page is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please talk to a doctor.
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