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Dealing with an underactive thyroid
What are other symptoms?
Unexplained weight gain, increased sensitivity to cold, chronic constipation, dry skin, puffiness (especially under the eyes), hoarseness, muscle and joint aches, overall body stiffness, heavy menstrual periods, brittle fingernails, hair loss, forgetfulness and depression are common symptoms. Children and teens also may experience poor growth, delayed puberty and delayed development of permanent teeth.
Not all people with hypothyroidism experience all the symptoms. Symptoms vary widely and problems related to this condition develop slowly so many people simply attribute symptoms to the aging process. As the metabolism continues getting slower, signs become more obvious.
Who is at risk of developing hypothyroidism?
Women are at higher risk, particularly over age 50. People who have an autoimmune disease or a close relative that is hypothyroid or has an autoimmune disease also are at higher risk. Anyone who has received radiation to the neck or upper chest, had thyroid surgery, or been treated with radioactive iodine also is higher risk.
When should I see a doctor?
See your doctor if you're feeling tired for no reason, continue to gain weight despite following sound nutritional plans, or have any of these other symptoms on an ongoing basis.
How is underactive thyroid treated?
Thyroid function tests can diagnose hypothyroidism. If you are hypothyroid, your doctor will prescribe a synthetic thyroid hormone, an oral medication you will take regularly life long. Once the proper dosage is established for your needs, you will see dramatic improvement in your symptoms. Because the dosage you need may change, your doctor is likely to check your TSH level every year.
What if I don't seek treatment?
Over time, untreated hypothyroidism can cause health problems such as obesity, acute joint pain, infertility, birth defects, mental health problems, elevated cholesterol levels and heart problems.
Dr. Krissondra Klop is a family medicine physician at Sanford South Clinic. A graduate of the Des Moines (Iowa) University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Klop completed a family medicine residency at Munson Family Practice Residency Program in Traverse City, Mich.