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Health Condition

Hypothyroidism

About This Condition

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland fails to function adequately, resulting in reduced levels of thyroid hormone in the body. Cretinism is a type of hypothyroidism that occurs at birth and results in stunted physical growth and mental development. Severe hypothyroidism is called myxedema.

There are many causes of hypothyroidism. One common cause is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland. Another common cause of hypothyroidism is medical treatment, such as surgery or radiation to the thyroid gland, to treat hyperthyroidism (over-activity of the thyroid gland). Some drugs, such as lithium and phenylbutazone, may also induce hypothyroidism. Extreme iodine deficiency, which is rare in the United States, is another possible cause. Failure of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus to stimulate the thyroid gland properly can cause a condition known as secondary hypothyroidism.

Some people with goiter (an enlargement of the thyroid gland) also have hypothyroidism. Goiter can be caused by an iodine deficiency, by eating foods that contain goitrogens (goiter-causing substances), or by other disorders that interfere with thyroid hormone production. In many cases the cause of goiter cannot be determined. While natural therapies may help to some extent, thyroid hormone replacement is necessary for most people with hypothyroidism.

Symptoms

The symptoms of hypothyroidism vary from person to person, but commonly include several of the following: fatigue, lethargy, intolerance to cold, constipation, weight gain, depression, excessive menstruation, dry skin, hair loss, and hoarseness. The onset of these symptoms may be so gradual as to evade detection by patient or physician.

References

1. Thilly CH, Swennen B, Bourdoux P, et al. The epidemiology of iodine-deficiency disorders in relation to goitrogenic factors and thyroid-stimulating-hormone regulation. Am J Clin Nutr 1993;57(2 Suppl):267S-70S.

2. Delange F. Risks and benefits of iodine supplementation. Lancet 1998;351:923-4.

3. Contempre B, Dumont JE, Ngo B, et al. Effect of selenium supplementation in hypothyroid subjects of an iodine and selenium deficient area: the possible danger of indiscriminate supplementation of iodine-deficient subjects with selenium. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1991;73:213-5.

4. Chow CC, Phillips DIW, Lazarus JH, Parkes AB. Effect of low dose iodide supplementation on thyroid function in potentially susceptible subjects: are dietary iodide levels in Britain acceptable? Clin Endocrinol 1991;34:413-6.

5. Stewart JC, Vidor GI. Thyrotoxicosis induced by iodine contamination of food: a common unrecognized condition? Br Med J 1976;1:372-5.

6. Norman JA, Pickford CJ, Sanders TW, et al. Human intake of arsenic and iodine from seaweed based food supplements and health foods available in the UK. Food Addit Contam 1987;5:103-9.

7. Thilly CH, Swennen B, Bourdoux P, et al. The epidemiology of iodine-deficiency disorders in relation to goitrogenic factors and thyroid-stimulating-hormone regulation. Am J Clin Nutr 1993;57(2 Suppl):267S-70S.

8. Contempre B, Dumont JE, Ngo B, et al. Effect of selenium supplementation in hypothyroid subjects of an iodine and selenium deficient area: the possible danger of indiscriminate supplementation of iodine-deficient subjects with selenium. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1991;73:213-5.

9. Vanderpas JB, Contempre B, Duale NL, et al. Selenium deficiency mitigates hypothyroxinemia in iodine-deficient subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 1993 Feb;57(2 Suppl):271S-275S [review].

10. Bunevicius R, Kazanavicius G, Zalinkevicius R, Prange AJ Jr. Effects of thyroxine as compared with thyroxine plus triiodothyronine in patients with hypothyroidism. N Engl J Med 1999;340:424-9.

11. Gaby AR. Treatment with thyroid hormone. JAMA 1989;262:1774 [letter].

12. Smolle J, Wawschinek O, Hayn H, Eber O. Vitamin A and carotene in thyroid disease. Acta Med Austriaca 1983;10:71-3 [in German].

13. Aktuna D, Buchinger W, Langsteger W, et al. Beta-carotene, vitamin A and carrier proteins in thyroid diseases. Acta Med Austriaca 1993;20:17-20 [in German].

14. Shakir KMM, Kroll S, Aprill BS, et al. Nicotinic acid decreases serum thyroid hormone levels while maintaining a euthyroid state. Mayo Clin Proc 1995;70:556-8.

15. O'Brien T, Silverberg JD, Nguyen TT. Nicotinic acid-induced toxicity associated with cytopenia and decreased levels of thyroxine-binding globulin. Mayo Clin Proc 1992;67:465-8.

16. Fujimoto S, Indo Y, Higashi A, et al. Conversion of thyroxine into tri-iodothyronine in zinc deficient rat liver. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1986;5:799-805.

17. Hartoma TR, Sotaniemi EA, Maattanen J. Effect of zinc on some biochemical indices of metabolism. Nutr Metab 1979;23:294-300.

18. Weismann K, Roed-Petersen J, Hjorth N, Kopp H. Chronic zinc deficiency syndrome in a beer drinker with a Billroth II resection. Int J Dermatol 1976;15:757-61.

19. Wolf WR, Holden J, Greene FE. Daily intake of zinc and copper from self selected diets. Fed Proc 1977;36:1175.

20. Galland L. Biochemical abnormalities in patients with multiple chemical sensitivities. Occup Med 1987;2:713-20 [review].

21. Robins JM, Cullen MR, Connors BB, Kayne RD. Depressed thyroid indexes associated with occupational exposure to inorganic lead. Arch Intern Med 1983;143:220-4.

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2018.

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