An underactive thyroid is generally known as hypothyroidism. It is a condition where the thyroid glands do not function normally and produces limited quantities of thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland is present at front of the neck. The hormone released by the gland is essential for the storage and usage of energy in the body.
The same hormone is responsible the proper heart beat and the regulation of digestive functions in the body. An underactive thyroid is more common in women than in men and it primarily affects people over the age of 60. However, the disease may also set in at a younger age in some individuals.
The disease is easily manageable in most cases and patients can lead a normal life by simply adjusting their diets and supplementing their thyroid levels through medication. However, there is no permanent cure for the same and patients will need to rely on the medication for the rest of their lives.
The only treatment for hypothyroidism is the usage of artificial T4 hormone medications, but diagnosing the disorder may be difficult in some cases. Signs of the condition include fatigue, depression, weight gain, muscle weakness, reduced heart rate, hair fall, elevated cholesterol levels and more.
An underactive thyroid gland may be caused as a result of an autoimmune condition. For instance, people suffering from Hashimoto’s disease often also suffer from hypothyroidism. In this condition, the patient’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland, which in turn causes an underactive thyroid.
Furthermore, the treatments for hyperthyroidism can sometime overwork and cause hypothyroidism. Apart from this, removal of the thyroid gland will also cause hypothyroidism. Furthermore, some medications and radiation therapy may also trigger the thyroid glands to become underactive.
Hypothyroidism is a lifelong disorder that can be managed, but cannot be eliminated from the body. The medications for the disease helps create a balance of thyroid hormone in the body. The synthetic form of the T4 hormone is prescribed to the patients. Drugs such as Levothyroxine is preferred as it is relatively safer.
Even though the medication needs to be continued throughout life, the dosage of the drugs may vary, based on the levels of thyroid hormones in the body. In most cases, people with an underactive thyroid will only start feeling the effects of the drug after undergoing treatment for a few weeks.
People suffering from reduced T4 levels in the blood should seek treatment. However, patients will need to be diagnosed with hypothyroidism, before the treatment starts.
If the hypothyroidism is caused as a result of the treatment for an overactive thyroid, patients may simply need to consult their physician and change the medication related to the latter condition. For such people, the treatment for hypothyroidism is not required in most cases.
Even though medication used to treat the underactive thyroid gland is generally safe, it may lead to some unforeseen side effects. These effects include headache, insomnia, fever, heart pounding, irregular menstrual cycles, sudden weight changes, and general irritability.
Apart from these side effects, higher dosage of the medications may also lead to hyperthyroidism in some patients. This is why doctors will need to monitor the level of thyroid hormone in the blood on a regular basis to avoid complications.
The treatment lasts as long as the patient lives. Doctors will advise patient to follow a healthy diet and avoid certain food items, which can further decrease the functionality of the thyroid gland. For instance, soy intake should be limited along with fibre intake. Too much of either of them can lead to complications of the disorder. Physicians also recommend people to stop consuming other supplements alongside the medication for an underactive thyroid.
There is no cure for the condition and the medications must be continued throughout the life of the person affected. However, a person diagnosed with the condition will need to consume the drugs for at least a few weeks, before he/she will notice any difference related to the symptoms of the condition.
Price of treatment depends on the medication that a patient is on along with the life span of that particular patient. Since the disorder can never be treated, people suffering from the same will need to be on the medication throughout life. Usually, the treatment cost ranges from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 1 Lakh in India, including the cost of various blood tests needed to determine the levels of the thyroid hormone in the body.
Results are temporary and most of the effects will only stay as long as the patient continues to consume the drugs in question. Even though the medication may change depending on the kind of results that the drug has on the patient’s body, stopping the treatment is not recommended at any point of time.
Alternative treatment for an underactive thyroid gland includes the usage of animal extracts, which contain both T3 and T4 hormones. Since only T4 is required by patients, the additional T3 from such products can often lead to complications and side effects. Furthermore, the dosage for such products are also unclear and is not recommended to patients suffering from hypothyroidism