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Feature:
Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Dr. Griffin Rodgers, Director of NIDDK

Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D.,M.A.C.P., Director,
NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive
and Kidney Diseases Photo:National Institute of
Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
(NIDDK)

Research Leads to Better Treatment

"Advances in research on molecular events lead the way to new tests and treatments for thyroid disease, such as the sensitive TSH test and synthetic thyroid hormone. We are committed to rapidly translating new knowledge into proven therapies that benefit patients."

Symptoms

Symptoms vary and can include:

  • fatigue
  • weight gain
  • puffy face
  • cold intolerance
  • joint and muscle pain
  • constipation
  • dry skin
  • dry, thinning hair
  • decreased sweating
  • heavy or irregular menstrual periods and difficulty getting pregnant
  • depression
  • slowed heart rate

Diagnosis

Because many of its symptoms are seen in other diseases, hypothyroidism usually cannot be diagnosed based on symptoms alone. In addition to a patient's medical history and thorough physical examination, several tests are used to confirm hypothyroidism.

The first, most accurate measure of thyroid activity is the TSH test. Generally, above normal TSH levels indicate hypothyroidism. Mildly elevated TSH without symptoms of hypothyroidism is called subclinical hypothyroidism. Some doctors treat subclinical hypothyroidism immediately, while others monitor it for signs of worsening.

There is also the T4 test, which measures actual thyroid hormone levels in the blood. In hypothyroidism, the level of T4 in the blood may be lower than normal.

To Find Out More

Treatment

Hypothyroidism is treated with synthetic thyroxine, identical to the hormone made by the thyroid. Exact dosage depends on the patient's age and weight, severity of the hypothyroidism, the presence of other health problems, and whether other drugs are being taken that might interfere with how well the body uses thyroid hormone.

TSH levels are measured about six to eight weeks after a patient begins taking thyroid hormone and the dose is adjusted accordingly. After the dose is stabilized, blood tests are taken in six months and then annually.

As long as patients take the recommended daily dose as instructed, hypothyroidism can almost always be controlled with synthetic thyroxine.

Read More "Hypothyroidism" Articles

The Thyroid and You / Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Spring 2012 Issue: Volume 7 Number 1 Page 24-25