What are the complications of hypothyroidism?
The thyroid hormones are needed for the body to function normally. The hormones regulate growth and metabolism, thus, influencing every function of the body. The complications of hypothyroidism include:
- Goiter: This refers to the swelling in the front of the neck due to an enlarged thyroid gland. When the thyroid gland does not secrete enough thyroid hormones, the pituitary gland stimulates it constantly to release more hormones. Goiter can cause problems with breathing and swallowing besides affecting the person’s appearance.
- Slowing of metabolism: this may make the person get tired easily and cause weight gain. It can also cause constipation.
- Heart problems: There may be an increased risk of heart disease and heart failure. This mainly occurs due to the high levels of bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL).
- Skin and hair problems: the skin may become rough and dry. There may be hair fall or thinning of the hair.
- Mental health issues: Slowed mental function and depression may occur.
- Nerve damage: Hypothyroidism can cause nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy). This may cause numbness, pain, and tingling in the affected areas.
- Sexual and reproductive issues: hypothyroidism can cause lowered fertility and sex drive in both men and women. Women may experience longer and heavier periods. In some, the periods may stop occurring. In pregnant women, it can cause high blood pressure, high chances of miscarriage, premature delivery, and hamper mental and physical development of the baby.
- Myxedema coma: It is a rare and life-threatening condition. It occurs when severe hypothyroidism is left untreated for long. It manifests as severe cold intolerance, confusion, drowsiness, lethargy, and unconsciousness.
What is hypothyroidism?
The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck. It makes the thyroid hormones, which are released into the blood and then carried to various tissues in the body. Thyroid hormones are needed for the body to use energy, maintain body temperature, and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working properly. Hypothyroidism is a medical condition in which the thyroid gland becomes underactive. The gland is not able to make enough thyroid hormone to keep the body functioning normally. Lab investigations show that people with hypothyroidism have low thyroid hormone levels in their blood. Some of the common causes of this condition are autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune disease causing the body’s immune system to attack and damage the thyroid), surgical removal of the thyroid, and radiation treatment. Hypothyroidism is a common condition affecting around 4.6% of the U.S. population ages 12 and older.
Can having hypothyroidism affect getting pregnant?
Women with untreated or under-treated hypothyroidism may find it difficult to conceive. Hypothyroidism may retard or prevent the release of the egg from the ovary. Ovulation is the process occurring in menstruating women in which the ovary releases an egg each month. In women with hypothyroidism, however, the process of ovulation may occur less frequently or not at all. Hypothyroidism may cause longer or heavier periods leading to anemia. The periods may also stop completely.
If fertilization occurs, hypothyroidism can interfere with the development of the fertilized egg or embryo. It can further increase the risk of miscarriage. In pregnant women with untreated hypothyroidism, the baby may be born prematurely (delivery before the 37 weeks of pregnancy). The baby may have other complications such as low birth weight or a lowered mental capacity.
If you have hypothyroidism and are planning to get pregnant, you must consult your doctor to get your thyroid hormones checked and receive appropriate treatment for the condition.
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