Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland is in front of the windpipe, just below the voice box. It is responsible for making, storing and releasing thyroid hormones, which regulate the how the body uses energy.
Older women are at highest risk of getting hypothyroidism. Your risk of getting the condition increases with age. If you have a family history of hypothyroidism, you are also at greater risk.
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – The most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States, this is a condition in which the immune system produces antibodies that destroy healthy thyroid tissue. It occurs most often in women and older adults, and can often go unnoticed for years.
- Surgical removal of the thyroid gland – This is sometimes used to treat thyroid cancer or other thyroid conditions. When all the thyroid gland tissue is removed or when the remaining thyroid tissue does not function properly, hypothyroidism can result.
- Radioactive iodine therapy – This can also be used to treat thyroid conditions. Since it destroys thyroid tissue, it can lead to hypothyroidism.
- Pregnancy – A small percentage of women develop hypothyroidism during or after pregnancy because an increased amount of thyroid hormones is produced during pregnancy.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the condition and the person’s age. Some possible symptoms include:
- Feeling tired, sluggish, or weak
- Memory problems or difficulty concentrating
- Intolerance to cold temperatures.
- Dry skin, brittle nails, or a yellowish tint to the skin.
- Heavy or irregular menstrual periods