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What is Hypothyroidism?

“Hypo” (underactive)
“ism’– (a state or condition)

Hypothyroidism is a condition affecting the thyroid gland, a small butterfly shaped organ at the base of then neck.


The thyroid is important because it creates thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone helps the body function. Thyroid hormone controls how fast the body uses energy, the body’s temperature, and how fast the heart beats.

In hypothyroidism the thyroid does not make enough thyroid hormone.

Signs and symptoms of Hypothyroidism

  • Feeling cold
  • Constipation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weight gain, even though you are not eating more food
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Feeling very tired
  • Pale, dry skin
  • Dry, thinning hair
  • Slow heart rate
  • A puffy face
  • A hoarse voice
Hypothyroidism can affect people differently. Some may have two or more symptoms, while another person may just have one symptom. Make an appointment to discuss your symptoms with your doctor

What Causes Hypothyroidism?

  1. Thyroiditis - This is the most common cause of hypothyroidism and is swelling in the thyroid gland.
  2. Radiation therapy -Radiation therapy to treat cancers in the neck can damage the thyroid gland.
  3. Radioactive Iodine treatment -Radioactive Iodine is treatment for other thyroid diseases, and may cause hypothyroidism.
  4. Other medications -Certain medications can interfere with the thyroid gland.
  5. Thyroid surgery -Removing the thyroid will affect thyroid hormone production.
  6. Too little iodine in the diet - A diet low in iodine can decrease thyroid hormone levels. Foods that contain iodine include table salt, shellfish, saltwater fish, eggs, dairy products, and seaweed.
  7. Postpartum Thyroiditis - This is swelling of the thyroid that occurs after pregnancy. This condition is usually temporary.
  8. Congenital hypothyroidism -Some babies are born with an underdeveloped thyroid gland. In the US babies are screened for this disease at birth.
  9. Pituitary gland disorders -The pituitary gland is another important gland in the body. The pituitary and thyroid gland work together. If the pituitary gland has been damaged, the thyroid’s can be affected.

Dangers/Complications of Hypothyroidism

If left untreated, hypothyroidism can make a person vulnerable to heart problems, goiters (swelling in the neck, infertility, and mental health issues.

When hypothyroidism is left untreated for an extended amount of time, extreme hypothyroidism develops and can be life threatening.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis: Hypothyroidism can be diagnosed with a blood test. The blood test will tell if your hormone levels fall within a normal range. If the blood test is abnormal more tests maybe required.

Your doctor may refer you to an endocrinologist. Endocrinologists are doctors that specialize in treating hormonal disorders of the body like hypothyroidism.

Treatment: Hypothyroidism is a treatable. Many patients take one small pill of thyroid hormone each day. Other medicines and supplements may interfere the thyroid hormone pill and it is important to consult with your doctor about all medications you are taking. Regular visits to the doctor are necessary to monitor thyroid hormone levels.

Resources and Support

Online information:
  1. Thyroid
  2. Hormones
  3. Cleveland Clinic
  4. Find a Doctor

Chicago Resources:

Loyola University Medical Center
2160 South First Avenue
Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism
Building 54 - Room 137
Maywood, IL 60153
Phone: (708) 216-6435