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Hypothyroidism. It is a term you often hear when people are trying to lose weight, but what is it, how do you get it and, most importantly, how can it be treated?

As this hormone is responsible for maintaining the body’s metabolism functioning properly, if you don’t have the right amount, you’re not only likely to experience weight gain, but a whole host of other symptoms too. Thyroxine is produced in the thyroid gland, a small butterfly shaped gland that’s situated in the neck just in front of the windpipe. If the thyroid does not produce enough thyroxine, your body’s functions begin to slow down.

Who is likely to suffer from an underactive thyroid?

Unfortunately women tend to suffer from hypothyroidism more than men, with 1 in 50 women expected to develop the illness compared to 1 in 1000 men. While it usually develops in adulthood, becoming more prevalent with increasing years, it can occur at any age and anyone can be affected, with some children being born with congenital hypothyroidism.

There are a selection of common symptoms which are associated with an overactive thyroidgland. These include feeling more tired than normal, weight gain, fluid retention, aching muscles, dry skin, lifeless hair and feeling cold, although you won’t necessarily experience all these at the same time. There are also some less common symptoms, including loss of sex drive, carpal tunnel syndrome and a hoarse voice.

How is it caused?

The main cause of hypothyroidism in the US is autoimmune disease, known as Autoimmune Thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s disease, where the antibodies produced by the immune system attach to the thyroid gland and prevent it from producing the correct levels of thyroxine.

An underactive thyroid can be diagnosed by means of a simple blood test which measures the levels of thyroid stimulating hormone in the blood. Higher levels than normal indicate that the thyroid isn’t producing enough thyroxine. It can also be diagnosed by low levels of thyroxine (T4). As soon as you start this treatment, you will have to take it for the rest of your life and you are going to need to undergo annual checks to ensure that the dosage is still appropriate for your needs.

Hypothyroidism

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