Although the thyroid may not seem as important as the lungs or the heart, when it is thrown off balance, the entire body is affected. Low levels of thyroid hormones cause hypothyroidism, which can alter physical and mental health. Fortunately, an underproductive thyroid often just requires hormone replacement therapy to treat, so it is often easier to treat than an over-productive thyroid.
At first, the signs and symptoms of a deficiency in thyroid hormone may not be very noticeable. It mostly causes a slow metabolism, and other associated symptoms. These symptoms vary from patient to patient, so a person can have this condition and experience just one or all of the following symptoms:
There are many different conditions that can cause low thyroid hormone levels, and it is important to discover the underlying cause so that proper treatment methods can be found. In the United States, Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause. This condition occurs when the immune system gets confused and mistakenly starts to attack the thyroid gland, preventing it from producing hormones. Sometimes, a person has an over-productive thyroid, and when this hyperthyroidism is treated with surgery, they may end up later having an underproductive thyroid because the thyroid is now too small. Certain medications, including lithium, amiodarone, and tyrosine kinase inhibitors may all cause an underproductive thyroid as a side effect. In rare cases, a person may have congenital an underproductive thyroid , which means they were born with an underperforming thyroid.
Generally, the best treatment for an underproductive thyroid is thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Sometimes, a person can stop taking a medication that is interfering with their thyroid, but this is not always an option, so almost everyone with an underproductive thyroid gland ends up taking synthetic hormones. Typically, patients take synthetic thyroxine, but some may also take triiodothyronine, which is similar but metabolizes in a slightly different way. There are almost no side effects to thyroid hormone replacement therapy, though it may take a bit of work to find the optimal dosage for you. Most patients who take a daily dose of thyroxine are able to live a happy, normal life once their thyroid levels are balanced.