Hypothyroidism Definition

The official hypothyroidism definition is that it is a condition in which your thyroid gland is not capable of producing enough thyroid hormones. Women above the age of 50 are most prone to developing hypothyroidism.  Most symptoms are mild in the early stages and for this reason often go unnoticed. However, untreated hypothyroidism can cause a number of health related problems like infertility, heart disease, obesity and joint pain.

Diagnosing Hypothyroidism

There are thyroid function tests that can diagnose hypothyroidism. Thyroid treatment is effective, safe and simple BUT medications need to be taken and in the correct dosages to be most effective.  When this is done the treatment of this disease is effective and it is completely curable.

Knowing The Symptoms As Per An Official Hypothyroidism Definition

Simply knowing what the hypothyroidism definition is will not be enough to determine whether or not you may have this disorder.  You should also be able to recognize the symptoms of hypothyroidism and be able to match them with those contained in an official hypothyroidism definition. Initially, you may hardly notice the common symptoms like fatigue and sluggishness.  As your metabolism begins to slow down significantly you will start developing some more obvious symptoms like:

  • Sluggishness
  • Fatigue
  • Pale , dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Elevated level of blood cholesterol
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Hoarse voice
  • Depression
  • Muscle aches, stiffness
  • Heavier menstrual periods

The danger of missing early hypothyroidism symptoms is that it will go untreated.  Eventually your condition will deteriorate to the point where the signs and symptoms are severe.  At this stage of the disease treatment is imperative if you are to avoid further serious and life threatening complications.

You may notice mention of the term myxedema in a hypothyroidism definition.  This is the most severe form of the disease and it develops when hypothyroidism is left untreated for a long period of time.  The symptoms are low blood pressure, decreased body temperature, unresponsiveness and even coma.  This condition can be fatal.

Interesting Questions about Thyroid:

What About Thyroid Cancer?

Are all thyroid lumps cancerous? How common is thyroid cancer?

Thyroid lumps (also called nodules) are growths in or on the thyroid gland. They occur in 4%-7% of the population. A thyroid nodule might cause your voice to become hoarse, or it could make breathing or swallowing difficult. However, it usually produces no symptoms and is discovered incidentally by you or your physician

More than 90% of these lumps are benign (not cancerous) and do not need to be removed. Thyroid cancer is found in only about 15,000 people each year and causes about 1,210 deaths per year. The most common form (papillary cancer) moves very slowly, and treatment is almost always successful when the cancer is detected early. A less common form (follicular cancer) also moves relatively slowly. Two less frequent forms of thyroid cancer (undifferentiated, or anaplastic, and medullary) are more serious.

Who can get thyroid cancer?

Anyone can get thyroid cancer. However, one group in particular has a higher risk: people who have had radiation to the head or neck. From the 1920s to the 1960s, x-ray treatments were used for an enlarged thymus gland, inflamed tonsils and adenoids, ringworm, acne, and many other conditions.

At that time, doctors thought the x-rays were safe. About 1 million Americans received the treatment, and some of these people will get thyroid cancer up to 40 or more years after receiving the treatment. We now know that radiation therapy to the head or neck increases the chance of developing thyroid cancer later in life. (Radioactive iodine treatments and x-rays used for testing do not increase the risk of cancer.)

Others at higher risk include a child or elderly person with a lump (nodule) in the thyroid. If a man has a thyroid nodule, it is more likely to be cancerous than if a woman has one.

What Are the Main Types of Thyroiditis?

Chronic thyroiditis

Called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, it is by far the most common form. It begins so slowly that most people don’t know anything is wrong. Over time, the disease destroys thyroid tissue until permanent hypothyroidism results. Some patients with Hashimoto’s have normal thyroid functions (euthyroidism) with a goiter.

Subacute thyroiditis

It’s a less common form, with far fewer cases than in chronic thyroiditis. Often caused by a viral infection, the disease lasts for several months. Subacute thyroiditis is painful, causing a tender, swollen thyroid gland with pain throughout the neck. The pain usually responds to treatment with aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs. At first, gland destruction causes the release of stored thyroid hormones, inducing temporary hyperthyroidism. A month or two later, the patient may become hypothyroid, because the thyroid has been damaged and its hormone reserves used up. Most patients return to normal within six to nine months, but the hypothyroidism could be permanent.

Painless thyroiditis

It causes a painless swelling of the thyroid gland. When this disease occurs after pregnancy, it is called postpartum thyroiditis. The course of painless thyroiditis is otherwise similiar to painful subacute thyroiditis.

Acute thyroiditis

A rare disease, is caused by an acute infection. Patients with the disease become very sick and have a high fever. The neck is red, hot, and very tender. Acute thyroiditis is a medical emergency and must be treated with antibiotics and surgery.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Thyroiditis?

Thyroiditis can cause either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, or one followed by the other.

Common signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • fast heart rate (100-120 beats per minute, or higher)
  • nervousness or irritability
  • increased perspiration
  • muscle weakness (especially in the shoulders, hips, and thighs)
  • trembling hands
  • weight loss, in spite of a good appetite.

Common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • slow heart rate (less than 70 beats per minute)
  • feel slow or tired
  • drowsy during the day, even after sleeping all night
  • poor memory
  • difficulty concentrating
  • muscle cramps, numb arms and legs
  • weight gain
  • constipation
  • heavy menstrual flow.

Have more questions? Need more answers? Check our Full Thyroid FAQ

Hypothyroidism In Teens And Children

Hypothyroidism predominantly affects middle aged and older women. However children, including newborns, and teens can also develop it.  Newborns manifest certain symptoms like:

  • Yellowing of the skin
  • Choking frequency
  • Puffy appearance on the face
  • A large tongue

Untreated hypothyroidism in children can make them mentally retarded.

Hypothyroidism And Its Treatment

If you find that you are feeling tired and fatigued without any reason, or you have pale and dry skin, a hoarse voice and constipation you should visit your doctor.  Periodic checks for thyroid function are also advisable for those in the at risk age brackets.  If you are undergoing hormone therapy you should get regular check ups to check on the progress of your hypothyroidism.

Pregnant women should be careful as this condition can lead to miscarriages. They should get their thyroid hormone levels tested regularly and if they do have hypothyroidism, take their medicines regularly.

It is important to know what the official hypothyroidism definition is and be able to identify signs and symptoms of this increasingly common disease.  It’s only by becoming more aware of what hypothyroidism is that patients will be diagnosed early and the disease will be kept under control.  If you have to take the medications for the rest of your life, do so.  Stopping them will spell disaster for your health.   By working together with your doctor to keep track of the disease and making changes to your lifestyle the prognosis for hypothyroidism sufferers is bright.  Be conscious of the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism.  Do not neglect it.