Thyroxine is the primary hormone which is secreted by the thyroid gland. Thyroxine plays an important role in controlling body metabolism and regulates the functions of the heart and the digestive tract. It also keeps the bones strong, helps in development of the brain and controls muscle growth.
In case if an underactive thyroid, the hormone may be replaced with Thyroxine. The dosage of Thyroxine is generally determined by the doctor, who decides the dose depending on the age as well as weight of the individual. A patient?s present health condition and medical history is also kept in mind when determining the dose.
Patients who have medial problems like hypertension, heart disease, problems with cholesterol, diabetes, underactive or overactive thyroid and problems with the functioning of the pituitary gland, should consult their doctors before Thyroxine. The drug is meant to be taken orally, ideally in the morning just before breakfast. In case of a skipped dose, you can take 2 doses at the same time the next day.
Patients taking Thyroxine may experience some side effects like loss of weight, diarrhea, pain in the chest, vomiting, problems with breathing, anxiety and irregular menses.
When the thyroid gland is affected, leading to the thyroid disorder of an underactive nature, it is termed as hypothyroidism. The thyroid gland which is found in the lower portion of the neck is critical to the proper functioning of the human body’s metabolism. In simple words, the thyroid hormone being released by this gland has to travel throughout the body to help in the use of energy gained from the food consumed and to keep the vital parameters such as the heartbeat in the right condition. When some antibodies attack the thyroid gland, and don’t permit it to release adequate amounts of hormones into the system, the hypothyroid condition results.
The Causes for Hypothyroidism
An inflammation caused to the thyroid gland can result in this condition. This is an auto-immune disorder, in the sense that some internal factors can trigger this inflammation. Medically, the inflammation is termed “thyroiditis”. There are also other factors that can cause hypothyroidism. These include radiation therapy. If the therapy has been administered near the neck area and the rays have penetrated to the thyroid gland, the inflammation can occur. Even those suffering from hyperthyroidism, the overactive form of thyroid and given radioactive iodine treatment can suffer from this condition due to the damage caused to the gland. Lastly, certain specific medications, if consumed regularly, can cause the condition.
Particular Sections of the Community at Risk
While there is no strict division among the population on vulnerability to be affected by hypothyroidism, research has indicated that women, and that too older women, may be more at risk. Men may be at a lower risk. Besides this, there are other profiles such as race and age which can also have a bearing on the level of risk. Of particular significance is that people who already suffer from autoimmune disorders are more likely to suffer from hypothyroidism than others.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Many symptoms might not be unique to the hypothyroidism condition and can be misleading. Constipation, depression, hair loss and fatigue are some of them and an experienced medical practitioner will weigh the other factors, including the profiles explained above to reach the proper conclusion. The conventional TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) and T-4 (thyroxine) blood tests will be advised by the physician and the results should provide a reasonable confirmation of the condition. If doubts still persist an ultrasound or scan can also be ordered.
As mentioned, for the body’s metabolism to function normally, it is essential that the thyroid gland releases the thyroid hormone in sufficient quantities. Treatment of hypothyroidism is therefore very essential. The most frequently followed treatment is to prescribe regular intake of the synthetic thyroid hormone called T4. It is usually available in the form of a pill and has to be taken daily. The physician will know the concentration and dosage to be advised. Periodically testing your blood is necessary to monitor the levels.
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Do you have an extremely low reading of thyroxine or T4, it means that you are suffering from an under active thyroid disease called hypothyroidism. With this condition, your thyroid glands fail to make sufficient thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland releases hormones, which travel all over your bloodstream and affect all parts of the body. Thyroid controls how the cells of the body use energy from food via the metabolism process, which in turn affects the body’s temperature, heartbeat and burning of calories. Lack of thyroid hormones slows down the body’s functions, reduces your energy and the metabolism is disrupted.
Causes of hypothyroidism
The primary cause of this condition is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Thyroiditis refers to an inflammation of your thyroid gland. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder in which extra antibodies are produced which destroy the thyroid gland. Viral infections may also lead to thyroiditis.
Other causes of the condition are as follows:
Risks factors of hypothyroidism
Usually women, especially older women are more likely to get hypothyroidism than men. The factors which determine if you are at a risk of acquiring the condition are as follows:
The symptoms of hypothyroidism are as follows:
If you observe the symptoms of hypothyroidism, you should consult a doctor who will prescribe several blood tests, such as the thyroid stimulating hormone test and the T4 or thyroxine test. Based on the results, a treatment method is adopted.
To understand about hypothyroidism, it is essential to first understand about the thyroid gland. Thyroid is an endocrine gland situated in the neck and produces the thyroid hormone. This hormone is then carried through the blood to different cells of the body. It helps the body organs to keep working as they should and also helps maintain body temperature. The two thyroid hormones - Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4) regulate protein, fat, carbohydrate and vitamin metabolism and are also responsible for proper differentiation and development of cells.
Hypothyroidism or Underactive thyroid or Low thyroid
This is a condition where the thyroid gland is underactive and produces low amounts of the thyroid hormone. To help the thyroid gland produce the required amount of T3 and T4 hormones, the pituitary gland will make additional thyroid stimulating hormone called TSH. Due to this additional secretion of TSH, one also develops chances of thyroid gland enlargement and in some cases form a goitre. The major cause of the low level of thyroid hormones is considered to be iodine deficiency. Hence the addition of iodine to the common salt has always been considered to be a safe method to prevent goitre. There can be several other causes of hypothyroidism such as weak immune system, radiation, surgery, Hashimoto’s disease, hormonal changes etc. It can be caused due to pregnancy and is called postpartum thyroiditis.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Whatever be the cause of hypothyroidism, it can show the following mild symptoms…
However, it is important to understand that you may show no symptoms or show some mild symptoms that can be easily confused with some other condition. Hence, a proper diagnosis is a must to confirm hypothyroidism.
Diagnosis of hypothyroidism
The most common tests to determine if you have hypothyroidism are TSH Testing and T4 Testing. However, if the doctor finds that the low levels of TSH are due to any defect in the pituitary gland, he may get you tested for another test called TRH. Also, Anti-thyroid Microsomal Antibodies Testing or thyroid peroxidase test (TPO) helps in identifying if the thyroid gland is damaged.
Treatment of hypothyroidism
Hormone replacement therapy is the best form of treatment available today. It involves the use of synthetic Levothyroxine (T4) or liothyronine (synthetic T3). Before these synthetic hormones were used for several years, however, prescription thyroxine tablets has been the most common mode of treatment which is generally required for life. It is only in rare cases of severe decompensated hypothyroidism that one requires hospitalization.
Apart from the above treatment options, it is best advised to avoid soy products, sugary processed foods and alcohol to keep a check on hypothyroidism.
It is important for you to know how pregnancy affects your thyroid gland. The thyroid hormone plays an important role during pregnancy in the development of the baby and also regarding the health of the mother. If you suffer from thyroid problems during pregnancy, you should take medicines and certain thyroid function tests.
How pregnancy affects normal thyroid function?
The pregnancy hormones known as human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG and estrogen lead to increased thyroid hormone levels in your blood. The hCG made by the placenta stimulates the thyroid to produce excessive hormones. Increased estrogen leads to higher levels of the thyroxine binding globulin, which transports the thyroid hormone in the blood.
Because of these normal hormonal changes, thyroid function tests are difficult to perceive during pregnancy. The thyroid hormone is very important for the normal development of a baby’s nervous system and brain. During the first trimester of pregnancy, the foetus depends on the supply of thyroid from the mother via the placenta.
In healthy women, the thyroid enlarges during pregnancy. An enlarged thyroid can indicate a thyroid disease, which should be diagnosed immediately. Thyroid problems are difficult to diagnose during pregnancy because of the increased hormone levels, increased thyroid size, fatigue and other factors.
Hyperthyroidism in pregnancy
Hyperthyroidism may occur in pregnancy because of Graves’ disease where enough thyroid hormones are not produced. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the cells and organs of the body instead of fighting bacteria or viruses. With Graves’ disease, an antibody is released by the immune system called the thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin or TSI. This causes the thyroid gland to produce excess thyroid hormone. In many cases, the antibody is also associated with eye problems like bulging, irritation and puffiness. Graves’ disease commonly appears during pregnancy, but women with this disease from before may actually observe improvements in the symptoms during the second and third pregnancy trimesters. The remission or the disappearance of the symptoms of Graves’ disease may occur due to the general suppression of the immune system, which occurs during early pregnancy. The disease is likely to recur and worsen in a few months after the delivery. It is important for pregnant women with Graves’ disease to be monitored carefully.
Hypothyroidism during pregnancy may lead to a developmental delay in the child. Sometimes, hormone therapy is given to women who are at the borderline stage in thyroid function during pregnancy or just before pregnancy. The treatment of the condition aims at maintaining a proper and balanced thyroid hormone level in the body.
Our endocrine glands work overtime to keep us healthy by secreting hormones which reach each and every cell in our body through the blood. These hormones evoke life changing responses in other cells to keep us alive and healthy. Endocrine surgery is a term for an operation in any one or more endocrine glands in your body.
Types of endocrine glands
Depending on the endocrine gland being operated upon, there are different types of endocrine surgeries. The most important ones are-