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Hypothyroidism. It is a term you often hear when people are trying to lose weight, but what is it, how can you get it and, most importantly, how can it be treated?

What is hypothyroidism?

While this hormone is responsible for maintaining the body’s metabolism functioning properly, if you don’t have the right quantity, you’re not just likely to experience weight gain, but a whole host of other symptoms also. If the thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroxine, your body’s functions start to slow down.

Who is likely to suffer from an underactive thyroidgland?

Unfortunately women often suffer from hypothyroidism more than men, with 1 in 50 women expected to develop the condition in contrast to 1 in 1000 men. While it usually develops in adulthood, becoming more prevalent with increasing years, it may happen at any age and anyone can be affected, with a few children being born with congenital hypothyroidism.

There are a selection of common symptoms which are associated with an overactive thyroidgland. These include feeling more tired than usual, weight gain, fluid retention, aching muscles, dry skin, lifeless hair and feeling chilly, although you won’t necessarily experience all these at the same time. There are also some less common symptoms, including loss of sexual drive, carpal tunnel syndrome and a hoarse voice.

How is it caused?

The main cause of hypothyroidism in the US is autoimmune disease, called Autoimmune Thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s disease, where the antibodies created by the immune system attach to the thyroid gland and prevent it from generating the correct levels of thyroxine.

An underactive thyroid gland can be diagnosed by means of a simple blood test that measures the degree of thyroid stimulating hormone in the blood. Higher levels than normal indicate that the thyroid isn’t producing enough thyroxine. It can also be diagnosed by low levels of thyroxine (T4). While the condition can not be cured it can be treated with a daily dose of the synthetic thyroid hormone, Levothyroxine, which can reverse symptoms in as little as 7 to 14 days. As soon as you start this treatment, you’ll need to take it for the rest of your life and you’ll need to undergo annual checks to make certain that the dosage is still suitable for your needs.

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