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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.
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.
Preliminary studies have found an association between multiple chemical sensitivities and hypothyroidism.1 One study found a correlation between high blood levels of lead, a toxic heavy metal, and low thyroid hormone levels in people working in a brass foundry.2 Many of these people also complained of depression, fatigue, constipation, and poor memory (symptoms of hypothyroidism).
Occupational exposure to polybrominated biphenyls and carbon disulfide has also been associated with decreased thyroid function.
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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 June 2017.
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