Hypothyroidism may develop in a person undetected. Changes in body functions are often subtle and occur gradually; the human body also has the ability to accommodate untreated hypothyroidism, at least initially. Furthermore, some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism may be common in a person’s lifestyle like poor eating habits, overwork, weight gain, fatigue, constipation and muscle cramps. Loss of appetite and inability to concentrate can also be attributed to things other than hypothyroidism. The only way to really come up with a definitive diagnosis of hypothyroidism is by testing and with medical assistance.
Untreated Hypothyroidism And Its Effects On Health
As hypothyroidism progresses untreated, the symptoms indicated above worsen. The body attempts to adjust itself to the lower hormone levels produced by the thyroid gland and additional symptoms are manifested. Heart rate and output are significantly controlled by thyroid hormones, which helps blood flow in the body through the relaxation of blood vessel walls. If left untreated hypothyroidism causes heart rate to slow down as it is unable to pump blood as efficiently as before. Blood pressure also rises as the blood vessel walls become stiff. A major risk in untreated hypothyroidism is hypertension.
Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to other negative health effects. These may occur in cases where the patient may not significantly show outward signs of hypothyroidism but blood testing shows signs of hypothyroidism. If treated in time the patient can fully recover and lead a normal life. If left untreated, the conditions that may eventually develop are :
- Iron deficiency.
- Respiratory problems.
- Kidney dysfunction
- Joint stiffness.
- Thyroid Lymphoma.
If extreme hypothyroidism develops, it may lead to a dangerous situation called Myxedema. This form of the disorder is life threatening. Fortunately such cases are very rare as hypothyroidism is usually detected before it reaches such an extreme stage.
Interesting Questions about Thyroid:
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also called chronic thyroiditis, is named for the Japanese doctor who discovered it. It affects about 5% of the adult population, increasing particularly in women as they age. Hashimoto’s, the most common form of thyroiditis, is the leading cause of hypothyroidism.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis results from problems with the body’s immune system. Normally, the immune system defends against germs and viruses, but in diseases such as Hashimoto’s, the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. In patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the immune system produce antithyroid antibodies, which damage the gland and keep it from producing enough hormones.
Diseases of the immune system tend to run in families and are about five times more common in women than in men. Hashimoto’s is linked to other autoimmune conditions, such as Graves’ disease, premature gray hair, diabetes mellitus, arthritis and patchy loss of pigment of the skin (vitiligo).
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
- heavy menstrual flow.
As with any disease, it is important that you watch for the early warning signs of thyroiditis. However, only your doctor can tell for sure whether or not you have the disease. Your doctor may examine:
- your history and physical appearance
- the amount of thyroid hormones, thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), and antithyroid antibodies in your blood
- your sedimentation rate, a blood test useful in diagnosing painful subacute thyroiditis
- the amount of radioactive iodine taken up by your thyroid gland.
Have more questions? Need more answers? Check our Full Thyroid FAQ
Effect Of Untreated Hypothyroidism On The Brain
With untreated hypothyroidism the patient begins to experience signs of mental depression. Depression can set in even during early stages of hypothyroidism. If hypothyroidism is allowed to continue untreated for long periods the patient may develop dementia, which causes difficulty concentrating and recalling past events.
Effect Of Untreated Hypothyroidism On Pregnant Women
When hypothyroidism is allowed to persist for long periods of time without being treated, ovulation function can be disturbed as the menstrual cycle itself becomes irregular. Pregnant women risk miscarrying and fetal development may be abnormal with resultant birth defects.
Effect Of Hypothyroidism On Development Of Children
Children who are afflicted with hypothyroidism at a young age have a slower growth rate. Development of new teeth for example is delayed and they may have problems with mental concentration. Lower early IQs have also been observed in children with untreated hypothyroidism whilst those who get treatment early enough develop normally.
Iodine is essential for normal functioning of the Thyroid Gland. If iodine is deficient it causes a condition called Goiter, which is an enlarged thyroid. Goiter can make swallowing difficult and may also cause breathing problems.
These days there is much more awareness among people, particularly women, about hypothyroidism. Therefore, as soon as some symptoms of the diseases appear corrective action is generally taken. Many women also undergo routine checks for hypothyroidism. They are also conscious about the damages hypothyroidism can do to their married lives.