One of the most common medical problems for women, especially older women, is an underactive thyroid, also known as hypothyroidism. The thyroid gland controls many bodily functions, including appetite, body temperature, metabolism and the health of the heart, kidneys, brain and reproductive system. If your doctor suspects you have hypothyroidism, then he or she may refer you to a doctor at West Valley Endocrinology.
Causes of Hypothyroidism
There are about three million new cases of hypothyroidism diagnosed each year in the United States, with most of those diagnosed being women. There are many causes of hypothyroidism, including not having enough iodine in your diet or having an autoimmune disease. Some of the other causes of hypothyroidism include:
• Radiation treatments of the neck
• Radioactive iodine treatments
• Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
• Viral infection causing thyroiditis
• Taking certain heart, cancer or psychiatric medications
If you or anyone in your family has a history of autoimmune diseases, this can also increase your risk of developing hypothyroidism. Some of these diseases include Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease or rheumatoid arthritis.
Many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism can be vague, and they can also be associated with other medical conditions. Some of the symptoms include:
• Hair loss or dry hair
• Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
• Dry skin
• Increased sensitivity to cold
• Slower heart rate
• Swelling or goiter in the neck
If you are having some of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your doctor to discuss being tested for hypothyroidism. Having this problem can lead to obesity, joint pain, and heart problems. If you are pregnant, it can interfere with the development of your baby if it is left untreated.
If you are referred to West Valley Endocrinology, an endocrinologist will order blood tests to check your thyroid. Since the thyroid secretes hormones, the blood tests will check the levels of T3, T4, and TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). If the levels indicate hypothyroidism or subclinical hypothyroidism, which is an early indicator of the disease, then the doctor may order a thyroid ultrasound or scan to look for inflammation or any nodules on your thyroid.
If you have this disease, then an endocrinologist will prescribe synthetic T4 to help elevate your hormone levels. The pill will need to be taken every day, and your doctor will follow up with blood tests to monitor your thyroid levels. It is important to treat hypothyroidism since the thyroid plays a vital role in controlling many bodily functions.
If you have any of the symptoms associated with hypothyroidism, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to be tested for this condition. Then, you can start taking the medication right away.