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What is the Thyroid Gland?

If your doctor has diagnosed you with hypothyroidism or you suspect your thyroid gland is not functioning properly, you may want to know more about why you are experiencing certain symptoms. First, let us start with some background on the thyroid gland and hypothyroidism. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck that is responsible of making thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones have receptors on every tissue in the body and are essential for energy, body temperature, brain function, cardiovascular health, muscle function, skin and hair health, and a multitude of other body functions.

What is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is the condition where the thyroid gland is releasing an insufficient amount of thyroid hormone. This deficiency can range from a minor deficiency leading to decreased quality of life up down to levels that require taking thyroid hormones orally to survive. Studies have shown the prevalence of hypothyroidism has increased over time and it’s estimated that approximately 10% of people in the United States suffer from hypothyroidism. Additionally, hypothyroidism is up to 8 times more common in women. 

Signs & Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

As we discussed earlier, when there is an insufficient amount of hormone production by the thyroid gland, certain signs and symptoms will present. In the rest of this article, we will discuss what the most common of these are, and how hypothyroidism causes these symptoms.

1.  Cold Intolerance – The thyroid hormone is involved in the two primary means in which heat is generated within the body. The body creates enough heat to maintain its normal temperature when exposed to a cold environment; this means that when there is a thyroid hormone deficiency, we are unable to restore our core temperature, leading to a abnormal sensitivity to cold. 

2.  Weight Gain – Thyroid hormone helps regulate how efficiently the body uses food for energy. In hypothyroidism, this metabolism slows down, causing the body to burn off calories much slower, resulting in weight gain.

3.  Muscle Ache & Joint Pain – The precise mechanism of action for this symptoms is still unclear; however, researchers believe this is caused by abnormal oxidative metabolism caused by a deficiency of thyroxine (T4).

4.  Brittle Hair & Nails – Thyroid hormones are involved in keratinocyte production.  These cells are crucial for the growth and health of hair follicles and nails. The deficiency in thyroid hormones caused by hypothyroidism leads to a decrease in the generation of keratinocytes.

5.  Goiter – An enlarged thyroid gland can present as swelling at the base of the neck. A deficiency in thyroid hormone production can cause the pituitary gland to produce more TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) in in order stimulate more thyroid hormone production. Such an increase in TSH can cause the gland to enlarge.

6.  Constipation – Hypothyroidism leads to reduced gut motility, which is when the colon contractions are weaker and slower. Constipation also results from hypothyroidism because thyroid hormones also interact with receptors in the gut to aid with the passage of waste products.

There are a number of other clinical manifestations that can be attributed to hypothyroidism; some of these include depression, fatigue, slow thoughts or movements, dry, scaly skin, a tingling sensation in the hand and fingers, and irregular or heavy periods.

If you have additional questions about hypothyroidism or are experiencing these symptoms, please call us to schedule your initial consultation.

Dr. Greg Jones NMDThe body content of your post goes here. To edit this text, click on it and delete this default text and start typing your own or paste your own from a different source.

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