The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. It makes hormones that control metabolism. Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid does not make enough thyroid hormone.
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Hypothyroidism may be caused by damage or injury to the thyroid. This may happen with:
- Disorder of the immune system
- Congenital defects of the gland or how it works
- Surgery, medical procedures, or radiation therapy for thyroid treatment
It may also be caused by:
- Problems with pituitary glands that sends signal to the thyroid
- Iodine deficiency—rare in the US, iodine is needed to make thyroid hormones
In some people, the cause may remain unknown.
Hypothyroidism is more common in women. It is also more common in those aged 65 years and older. Other factors that may increase your chance of hypothyroidism include:
Symptoms may not always appear. In those that have symptoms, hypothyroidism may cause:
- Coarse, brittle hair, and hair loss
- Facial puffiness
- Dry skin
- Swollen hands or feet
- Cold intolerance
- Weight gain
- Achy feeling all over
- Depression and irritability
- Memory loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Blurred vision
- Menstrual abnormalities or infertility
Symptoms of severe or long-term hypothyroidism causes:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
A blood test may be done to check levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), and/or free T4. Other tests may be recommended to rule out health conditions that are similar to hypothyroidism.
Medicine can be used to make up for the missing thyroid hormones. The amount of medicine needed may change over time.
American Thyroid Association https://www.thyroid.org
Office on Women's Health https://womenshealth.gov
Health Canada https://www.canada.ca
Thyroid Foundation of Canada http://www.thyroid.ca
Escobar-Morreale HF, Botella-Carretero JI, Escobar del Rey F, et al. Treatment of hypothyroidism with combinations of levothyroxine plus liothyronine. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005;90(8):4946-4954.
Hypothyroidism in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115914/Hypothyroidism-in-adults . Updated November 27, 2017. Accessed December 15, 2017.
Roberts CG, Ladenson PW. Hypothyroidism. Lancet. 2004;363(9411):793-803.
Surks MI, Ortiz E, Daniels GH, et al. Subclinical thyroid disease: scientific review and guidelines for diagnosis and management. JAMA. 2004;291(2):228-238.
Thyroid hormone treatment. American Thyroid Association website. Available at: https://www.thyroid.org/thyroid-hormone-treatment. Accessed December 15, 2017.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD
- Review Date: 11/2018
- Update Date: 12/14/2015