What Is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a condition where your thyroid is underactive. The thyroid is what regulates many bodily functions. Symptoms from hypothyroidism can begin slowly and become more severe. Low thyroid hormones can affect many areas of the body.
Heart, Veins, and Blood Vessels
Hypothyroidism can cause low blood pressure and decreased heart rate. These symptoms can put a person at a greater risk for hardening of the arteries or heart attack. Hypothyroidism can also lead to cholesterol problems.
Thyroid disease can affect your nerves and nervous system. If your thyroid hormones aren’t well controlled, your body’s peripheral nerves can suffer. These nerves send messages from your brain to the rest of your body. Peripheral neuropathy can cause:
- burning pain
Difficulty thinking or a feeling of fatigue, known as “brain fog,” sometimes occurs in people with hypothyroidism. This mental cloudiness can lead to forgetfulness or difficulty completing tasks.
The link between thyroid function and depression has been acknowledged for a long time. According to a 2012 article in the Journal of Thyroid Research, people with thyroid problems are more likely to develop depressive symptoms.
The Digestive System
Hypothyroidism often slows your metabolism. Also, low levels of thyroid hormones can change how your stomach digests food. Thyroid hormones affect the production of a key stomach hormone, gastrin. Low gastrin levels can lead to heartburn, ulcers, reflux, bloating, and inflammation.
Having low thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels can lead to a higher risk of bone fracture. Hypothyroidism doesn’t generally lead to bone loss, but taking too much thyroid hormone replacement may cause bone loss. It’s important that your doctor regularly checks your hormone levels to make sure they’re in the appropriate range.
Hypothyroidism can cause an increase in gallstones. This is due to the thyroid hormone thyroxine relaxing the opening of the gallbladder. This causes bile to flow abnormally, leading to increased stone production.
Hypothyroidism can cause your eyebrow hair to thin. This usually occurs on the outer portion of the eyebrow. Some swelling of the eyes can also occur as the result of low thyroid hormones. Vision changes are more prevalent in a form of hyperthyroidism called Graves’ disease.
The Skin and Hair
Because many skin conditions have overlapping symptoms, diagnosing thyroid-induced skin disorders can be difficult. Hypothyroidism can lead to an inability to handle cold temperatures, triggering dry or waxy skin. You may also experience ridged or split nails, swelling, and a pale or yellow appearance of the legs. Your scalp and body hair may become thin, coarse, or dry.
Hypothyroidism can occur as a secondary condition. A disruption in the pituitary gland can cause thyroid conditions. This is because the pituitary gland and hypothalamus regulate the thyroid. Secondary hypothyroidism occurs when the pituitary gland fails to make TSH. The cause is often a benign, non-cancerous tumor. This secondary hypothyroidism is more common in women over the age of 50 and in people who have had a prior pituitary problem.
Pancreas and Blood Sugar
The pancreas and thyroid are both part of the body’s endocrine system. As a result, these two systems often work in tandem. One influences the other so when the thyroid is sluggish, blood sugar control becomes more difficult. In this case, this slowness leads to decreased sugar absorption in the stomach, which can trigger fatigue. These imbalances are more common in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition.
As you can see, hypothyroidism can affect every part of your body in some way. However, it’s important to remember that it effects everyone differently. So what you experience may not be the same as someone else. Make sure to maintain regular visits with your doctor so they can monitor your laboratory results and get you on the right treatment plan. Doing so means you can lead a normal and healthy life.