The question of whether or not you have hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) is a deceptively difficult one to answer. Part of the difficulty in getting an accurate diagnosis is the difference between how you feel and the signs that are more medically obvious.
Self-Reflection vs. Medical Diagnostics
An estimated 3 to 8 percent of current potential patients have a condition called subclinical hypothyroidism. Basically, an underactive thyroid gland that has gone clinically unnoticed. How is this possible? Look to the testing for answers.
Hypothyroidism is diagnostically present when the hormone levels in your bloodstream are low and the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels are consistently high. This means that the hypothalamus in your brain has been “standing in” for your thyroid gland over an extended period of time.
If your hormone levels are low, but your TSH level is only mildly elevated, you could still have an underactive thyroid and your tests will come back within normal range; leaving the condition untreated. Translation: you will start feeling worse than you look; medically speaking.
The symptoms of this condition include:
• Weight gain-typical of an underactive thyroid. Weight loss becomes difficult.
• Intolerance to cold
• Excessive fatigue
• Dry, coarse hair and skin
• Loss of coordination and concentration
• Increased cholesterol
• Muscle cramps and body aches
Chances are good that you can skirt by with very few symptoms, at first. Eventually, the hormone deficiency will get the better of you, however, and when that happens, you need to know what to do next.
Fighting an Unseen Battle
There is debate in the medical community about how soon doctors should treat hypothyroidism. As of now, it has to reach a clinical level (show up in blood work) before you are put on lifelong hormone replacement therapy. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to advocate for early prevention and treatment.
Patients who are refusing to sit on the sidelines and suffer undiagnosed for months or years have helped unlock some clues to their condition.
Nutritional and dietary research has shown that following some simple rules about what you eat can make a significant dent in your thyroid weight loss efforts and other symptoms. The other component of early treatment is not to do it on your own. If you are unsure about your hypothyroidism status, talk to a hormone specialist.
Thyroid conditions affect 12 million people. Of that total, 10 million have hypothyroidism and the majority of those patients are women between the ages of 35 and 60.
The abnormally high occurrence of thyroid conditions in women remains somewhat of a mystery in the medical field. What we do know is that if thyroid conditions, like hypothyroidism run in your family, you should start getting a thyroid panel by your early thirties.
Risk Factors for Women
Family history isn’t the only factor to watch for. Women can have an increased risk for:
• Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
• Medication reactions
• Iodine deficiency
• Malfunctions in the pituitary gland
• Depleted thyroid hormone from radiation treatments
According to the Mayo Clinic, female patients should pay attention to the additional cluster of symptoms:
- Changes that effect thyroid weight loss regiment
- Heavy menstrual periods
- Low sex drive
- Brittle nails
- Swelling of the hands, feet and face
These symptoms will not occur all at once, but progressively worsen over time. Keep a symptom journal when you start to notice changes and take it with you to your appointment with a specialist.
Taking that additional step will help them establish a diagnostic timeline and give them more information about what’s happening to your body on a daily basis.
The Most Important Factor
The day-to-day changes in your body are particularly important if you are pregnant. Hypothyroidism can develop due to pregnancy because of the increased demand for thyroid hormone during the first trimester.
At this point in the pregnancy, your baby does not have a thyroid gland, therefore; it must rely on the hormone supply from your gland until its glandular tissue is fully developed. If you do not have enough thyroid hormone to support the baby, it can cause a miscarriage or pre-term labor.
To avoid this tragic outcome, get your thyroid levels checked routinely for the duration of the pregnancy. Talk to a specialist about the testing timetable so that you can safeguard yourself and your unborn child.
The more patients that can get diagnosed and treated, the more we learn about these conditions. What we learn can be applied to improve both our understanding and treatment of thyroid problems. Hopefully, we can begin to decode the conditional mysteries of today.
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