What is the thyroid?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland found in your neck. It is a part of the endocrine system and plays an important role by secreting hormones that help to regulate metabolic processes.
What controls the thyroid gland?
The pituitary gland is a part of the endocrine system, often known as the master gland because of its control over most hormone-releasing glands in the body. The thyroid gland, my chosen gland is controlled by the pituitary. The role of the pituitary is to control the body’s function by sending hormones to the bloodstream. Hormones are chemical messengers that help the body communicate. The bloodstream delivers these hormones to specialised endocrine glands or body tissues.

What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism means the thyroid gland is underactive consequently failing to secrete enough hormones into the bloodstream. This causes the person’s metabolism to slow down. Causes of hypothyroidism may vary but some include the autoimmune condition Hashimoto’s disease, insufficient dietary iodine or a genetic link in a family.

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What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may vary from each individual; some people show mild symptoms while some may experience more severe symptoms though it is rare for a patient to have all of them at once.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:
o fatigue and lack of levels
o depression
o slow heart rate
o unexplained weight gain
o intolerance to cold temperatures
o aching, tired muscles
o dry skin
o hair loss
o constipation
o problems with concentration or ‘brain fog’
o memory loss
o goitre (an enlarged thyroid gland)

Who does it affect?
Women are much more likely than men to develop hypothyroidism. The disease is more common among people older than the age of 60. A family history of hypothyroidism increases the chance of getting the disease

What tests are done to make a diagnosis?
A physical examination of the patient is done almost immediately. A doctor will often order blood tests for Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and T4 (thyroxine) levels. A doctor may also order a thyroid ultrasound and radioactive iodine scans to check the internal structure of the thyroid.

How is hypothyroidism treated?
Treatment in a person focuses on boosting thyroid hormone levels that were previously lacking. Thyroxine tablets, a form of hormone replacement is often prescribed. There is no cure for autoimmune hypothyroidism, so medication will have to be taken for the rest of a person’s life. The dose must be carefully monitored, as too little medication won’t relieve the symptoms whereas too much medication can result in hyperthyroidism (resulting from too much thyroxin). Nevertheless, it’s important to for a patient to see their doctor often to be reviewed.

What controls the thyroid gland?
The pituitary gland is a part of the endocrine system, often known as the master gland because of its control over most hormone-releasing glands in the body. The thyroid gland, my chosen gland is controlled by the pituitary. The role of the pituitary is to control the body’s function by sending hormones to the bloodstream. Hormones are chemical messengers that help the body communicate. The bloodstream delivers these hormones to specialised endocrine glands or body tissues.

What systems does hypothyroidism affect?
Nervous:
The central nervous system is affected by hypothyroidism as it contributes to ‘brain fog’. It is the weakened ability to think clearly and memory loss. Low thyroid hormone levels can lead to depression. Untreated hypothyroidism leads to peripheral neuropathy where it eventually interferes with the nerves in the way they send signals to your spinal cord, body and brain.

Digestive
Hypothyroidism can affect the digestive system because constipation is a symptom. It is due to the slowed metabolism. Hypothyroidism reduces the number of stomach acids by its effect on gastrin, a hormone in the stomach. When the gastrin level is low, so is the amount of stomach acid. As hypothyroidism slows the digestive process it can lead to frequent heartburn.

Reproductive
A woman with hypothyroidism can be affected by the frequency of her menstrual cycle. Irregular periods and changes in flow are common. Fertility is also affected as pregnancy becomes harder or chances of miscarriage are higher if they do get pregnant.

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