The thyroid glad plays a vital role in regulating human metabolism, which is the rate that the body converts food and oxygen into energy. As people age, the rate at which the thyroid secretes hormones into the bloodstream slows. Although this process is natural, in some individuals it slows too much, causing a condition called hypothyroidism, or slow thyroid.
Who is Affected by Hypothyroidism?
Many people don’t even realize that they have hypothyroidism as this condition can creep up on you. The condition is more common in women than men, with about 13 percent of women between the ages of 35 and 65 afflicted with it and more than 20% of women aged 65 or older.
Unexplained weight gain is the most common symptom of those afflicted by a slow thyroid. True hypothyroidism has several other defining characteristics that include:
- Fatigue and less overall energy
- Intolerance to cold
- Loss of appetitie
- Cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure, elevated levels of cholesterol and increased homocysteine
- Depression and memory problems
- Dry, flaky skin and brittle nails
- Muscle aches and pain around the joints
If you have any of these symptoms, it’s wise to consult a Tampa area endoncrinologist as many of these signs may also be present in other diseases and conditions. In addition to a physical exam, your doctor will check for other signs, such as an enlarged thyroid gland and may order tests to determine levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). This is the best screening test to determine if you have hypothyrodism and long checking for levels of T4, the thyroid hormone thyroxine.
Once you have been diagnosed with a slow thyroid, most treatments are simple. The condition is usually treated via daily doses of synthetic T4, also known as levothyroxine sodium. The goal of the treatment is to lower TSH to the midpoint of normal and maintain it at that level. Once the proper levels are established, your levels will be checked about every six months.