Hypothyroidism, also known as "underactive thyroid disease," is a common adult condition of the thyroid, a gland that regulates the body's energy. It occurs when the thyroid gland stops producing enough of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. When the thyroid does not produce enough hormone, it slows down the body's metabolism and the gland itself shrinks as its cells are destroyed by the subtle effect in the patient's immune system. The gland is shaped like a bow tie wrapped around the windpipe at the base of the throat.
Symptoms may initially go unnoticed because they often mimic those of normal aging and may develop slowly over months and years. Symptoms include:
Your internist can screen for hypothyroidism with a simple blood test for Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH). Guidelines from the American College of Physicians (ACP) recommend hypothyroid screening for women over 50.**
Hypothroidism is easily treated with a daily pill containing a synthetic thyroid hormone, usually for life (unless hypothyroidism case is short-term).