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June 26, 2023 8 min read

If you've been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, chances are you already know a thing or two about it. But getting a better grasp on the various reasons, signs, and ways to identify hypothyroidism can really help you handle the situation better. By learning more about this stuff, you can make smarter choices when it comes to your health and treatment. Plus, it can help you spot possible triggers, make changes to your daily habits, and keep a closer eye on how you're feeling and how things are going with your treatment. Ultimately, it'll allow you to manage your hypothyroidism more effectively and feel better overall.

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism, often called underactive thyroid, is a common medical condition that affects the thyroid gland's ability to produce enough thyroid hormone – mainly T3 and T4.

In people with hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland isn't producing enough of these vital hormones, and as a result, various bodily functions start to slow down. This can lead to a wide range of symptoms, which may initially be subtle but could become more noticeable over time.

Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to other health problems, such as heart issues and high cholesterol. Moreover, if your thyroid hormone levels are dangerously low (or myxedema), it can cause serious health conditions.

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism symptoms can vary from person to person and can be subtle at first. However, common symptoms may include fatigue, weight gain, constipation, coldness, dry skin, hair loss, depression, memory problems, and difficulty concentrating. Other symptoms may include joint and muscle pain, hoarseness, menstrual irregularities, and a slow heart rate. In some cases, swelling in the neck, known as a goiter, may also be present.

What are the types of hypothyroidism?

There are several types of hypothyroidism, each with its own unique set of causes and symptoms. Understanding the different types of hypothyroidism is important for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. The following are the types of hypothyroidism.

  • Primary hypothyroidism occurs because there's a problem in the thyroid gland itself that prevents it from producing enough thyroid hormone. This problem is usually caused by autoimmune disease, surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid, radiation, or radioactive iodine therapy. Other causes include insufficient dietary iodine, viral thyroiditis, and congenital disease. Primary hypothyroidism is the most common type of hypothyroidism.

  • Secondary hypothyroidism occurs when there's a dysfunction in your pituitary gland. This dysfunction hinders it from producing adequate quantities of hormones needed to stimulate the thyroid gland (thyroid stimulating hormone - TSH).

  • Tertiary hypothyroidism, also known as central hypothyroidism, occurs when there's something wrong with the hypothalamus. Thus, it cannot release enough thyrotropin-releasing hormone, so the pituitary gland cannot send enough TSH to encourage the production of thyroid hormone.

What are the common causes of hypothyroidism?

While the exact cause of hypothyroidism may vary from person to person, several common factors can contribute to its development. Here are some common causes of hypothyroidism you should be aware of.

Hashimoto's thyroiditis

Hashimoto's thyroiditis, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid gland. It occurs when the body's immune system attacks the thyroid tissue, causing inflammation and damage to the gland over time.

Congenital hypothyroidism

Congenital hypothyroidism is a type of hypothyroidism that is present at birth. Babies are sometimes born with an underactive thyroid because the thyroid gland doesn't develop properly in the womb. This is called congenital hypothyroidism, affecting around 1 in 3,000 babies in the world.

Iodine deficiency

Iodine deficiency is one of the main causes of hypothyroidism. Iodine is a crucial mineral that is needed to make thyroid hormones. Without enough iodine, the thyroid gland can't produce enough of these hormones, which can lead to an underactive thyroid gland.


Thyroidectomy, or the surgical removal of the thyroid gland, is another common cause of hypothyroidism. The thyroid gland may be removed due to cancer, goiter, or other thyroid diseases.

Radioactive iodine

Radioactive iodine treatment and thyroid surgery can be causes of hypothyroidism. In radioactive iodine treatment, a large dose of radioactive iodine is given orally to destroy the thyroid gland, which may be necessary for treating certain thyroid conditions such as hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland) or thyroid cancer.

Hypothyroidism in special populations

Hypothyroidism can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, but certain populations may be more at risk or experience unique challenges related to the condition.

Hypothyroidism in children and adolescents

Hypothyroidism in children and adolescents can cause a variety of symptoms, including poor growth, delayed puberty, delayed tooth development, and fatigue. Hypothyroidism develops slowly and also develop later in childhood or adolescence, often due to Hashimoto's thyroiditis or radiation therapy.

Hypothyroidism during pregnancy and postpartum

Hypothyroidism during pregnancy and postpartum is a common concern for many women. During pregnancy, the thyroid gland must produce more thyroid hormones to support the growing fetus. The mother may develop hypothyroidism if the thyroid gland cannot meet the increased demand.

Hypothyroidism in the elderly

Hypothyroidism is a common condition among elderly individuals. As people age, their thyroid gland may become less efficient at producing hormones. Elderly individuals with hypothyroidism may also be at increased risk for developing other health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

How do doctors diagnose hypothyroidism?

When experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism, it is important to consult a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause. To diagnose hypothyroidism, doctors may use a combination of physical exams, blood tests, and imaging studies.

The importance of proper diagnosis and thyroid hormone treatment

Proper diagnosis and treatment of hypothyroidism are essential, as the condition can significantly impact your overall health and well-being.

Untreated thyroid disorder can lead to various complications such as heart disease, infertility, depression, and even coma. In addition, misdiagnosis and incorrect treatment can lead to unnecessary interventions, including surgery or inappropriate medication that can worsen hypothyroidism.

If you get your hypothyroidism diagnosed early, proper treatment can help alleviate symptoms, prevent complications, and improve your overall quality of life.

Blood tests

Blood tests play a crucial role in diagnosing hypothyroidism. They allow doctors to measure the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroid hormones, such as thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), in the bloodstream.


TSH is produced by the pituitary gland to signal the thyroid to produce hormones. A high TSH level indicates that the thyroid is not producing enough hormones, pointing toward hypothyroidism.

Free T4

Free T4, or free thyroxine, is another important blood test used to diagnose hypothyroidism. This test measures the level of T4 hormone that is not bound to proteins in the bloodstream. Low levels of Free T4 may suggest hypothyroidism.

Free T3

Free T3 (triiodothyronine) is another hormone that is tested in the blood to diagnose hypothyroidism. It is the active form of thyroid hormone that is responsible for regulating the body's metabolism. Free T3 levels can be decreased in hypothyroidism, which can contribute to the symptoms of the condition.

TPO Antibody

TPO antibodies, or thyroid peroxidase antibodies, are proteins produced by the immune system that mistakenly target and attack the thyroid gland, specifically the thyroid peroxidase enzyme. The presence of TPO antibodies indicates an autoimmune response, wherein the body's immune system is, in essence, attacking its own thyroid gland.

TPO antibodies are used in thyroid tests to help diagnose autoimmune thyroid disorders, such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis and, less commonly, Graves' disease. Hashimoto's thyroiditis is the most frequent cause of hypothyroidism. Elevated levels of TPO antibodies in a thyroid test can suggest that your underactive thyroid disease is due to an autoimmune condition like Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

Thyroid home test

While blood tests are the most reliable method for diagnosing hypothyroidism, some individuals may prefer to monitor their thyroid function at home. One way to do this is by self-testing using pulse rate, body temperature, and symptoms. Hypothyroidism can cause a decrease in pulse rate and body temperature, so taking these measurements can give an indication of thyroid function. Additionally, keeping track of symptoms can also be helpful in determining if thyroid function may be compromised.

What is the problem with a high TSH?

High levels of TSH in the blood can indicate an underactive thyroid gland. The normal range for TSH can vary depending on the laboratory used but generally falls between 0.4 and 4.0 milli-international units per liter (mIU/L).

What causes abnormal test results?

Several things may cause abnormal test results; here are some examples.

1. Your liver doesn't convert T4 to T3

When the thyroid gland produces the hormone T4, it needs to be converted to T3 in order to be used by the body. This conversion process primarily takes place in the liver, but if there is a problem with the liver, such as liver disease or damage, it may not be able to convert T4 to T3 effectively.

2. Your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough T4 and T3

When your thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone T4 and T3 hormone, it will cause abnormal test results.

3. There's a blockage of the cellular response to T3

When there's a blockage of the cellular response to T3, it can cause abnormal test results for hypothyroidism. This means that even if there is enough thyroid activity of T4 and T3 in your blood, the cells in your body may not be able to use it effectively, leading to hypothyroid symptoms.

Things that affect thyroid test

In addition to the factors mentioned above, several other things can affect thyroid test results. Certain medications, such as steroids, birth control pills, and lithium, can interfere with thyroid function and affect test results. Additionally, recent surgery or radiation therapy to the neck area can affect thyroid function and test results.

In conclusion, diagnosing and treating your thyroid problem is crucial for maintaining overall health and well-being. Thyroid scans and blood tests, including TSH, free T4, free T3, and TPO antibody tests, are essential for accurate diagnosis, and thyroid hormone replacement therapy can effectively manage your health condition.

What are the treatment options for hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism: Comparing Different Types of Thyroid Hormone Replacement Options

Hypothyroidism can be quite a challenging condition to manage for affected individuals. The continuous search for the most effective thyroid hormone replacement therapy is paramount in ensuring they achieve the best possible results. In this article, multiple options will be compared to offer a glimpse into the treatments available. While many have found natural desiccated thyroid to be their preferred choice, other alternatives may be more suitable for different individuals based on their unique circumstances.

1. Synthetic Levothyroxine (T4)

Synthetic levothyroxine is another commonly prescribed thyroid hormone replacement. This T4-only medication is the most widely used treatment for hypothyroidism. It has a stable and well-regulated composition, which allows physicians to monitor and adjust the dose more accurately.

Although levothyroxine works well for many patients, some may experience inadequate symptom relief due to the sole presence of T4. In such cases, the body must convert T4 to the more active T3 hormone, and this conversion may not take place efficiently in some individuals.

2. Synthetic Liothyronine (T3)

Liothyronine is a synthetic form of the T3 hormone, which fills the gap for those who struggle with the conversion of T4 to T3. Physicians usually prescribe it in combination with synthetic T4 to achieve a more balanced hormonal effect.

While this combination may provide significant relief for some patients, it is essential to remember that liothyronine has a shorter half-life than levothyroxine. This means that it should be taken more frequently, which may make it less convenient for some individuals.

3. Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT)

Many patients consider natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) their top option for thyroid hormone replacement. Derived from the thyroid glands of pigs or cows, NDT contains a mixture of two different types of thyroid hormones: T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). The naturally occurring proportion in NDT replicates the human thyroid hormone ratio more closely than its synthetic counterparts.

Benefits of NDT include its use of natural sources, which appeals to those seeking alternative medicine options. Additionally, it tends to provide better symptom relief and improved quality of life for some patients. However, NDT like Armour Thyroid and NP Thyroid can be hard to find. Some doctors even refuse to prescribe them. In this case, you can consider NDT in supplement form. A good option to choose is VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online.

4. Compounded Thyroid Hormone Replacement

Compounded thyroid hormone replacement medications are customized formulations made by specialized pharmacists. These formulations may contain a specific blend of T4 and T3 hormones, designed to meet a patient's individual needs. Compounded medications may be useful for those with allergies to specific components in commercial thyroid hormone replacement products or those who require tailored dosing.

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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