Thyroid disease is a term used to describe several diseases and conditions, including hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and related diseases such as thyroid cancer. The most common type of thyroid disease is hypothyroidism.
A healthy thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) naturally in the body. People who suffer from hypothyroidism have underactive thyroid glands. That means that their bodies do not create enough thyroid hormones, and they have a chronic thyroid hormone deficiency. The resulting symptoms can range from mild to debilitating.
Hypothyroidism often goes undiagnosed because it progresses slowly and the symptoms, such as weight gain, tiredness, and shortness of breath, are often confused with the natural effects of growing older. Other symptoms in adults include sensitivity to cold, low mood, heavy menstruation, difficulty sleeping, stiff or painful joints, thin hair, anxiety, dry skin, constipation, high cholesterol, and weak muscles.
Hypothyroidism is most common in middle-aged and older women. After the age of 60, hypothyroidism becomes very common and becomes more likely to develop with age. However, people can suffer from hypothyroidism at any age. Symptoms in infants include jaundice, choking, a swollen face, and constipation. Symptoms in adolescents include poor growth and development, late puberty, heavy periods, and weight gain.
Doctors can screen for hypothyroidism using scans, blood tests, and physical exams.
How can hypothyroidism be treated?
Hypothyroidism can be managed using a variety of prescribed medications. Most commonly prescribed are hormone replacement drugs which increase the body’s level of thyroid hormones. Alternative medicines and lifestyle changes may also prove helpful for some patients.
Levothyroxine is a synthetic hormone replacement drug. It works by artificially replenishing the body’s natural levels of thyroxine (T4) hormone. It may also help to lower cholesterol levels and reverse weight gain. Levothyroxine is an oral medicine which is usually taken daily and is most commonly prescribed to treat hypothyroidism. Once prescribed, levothyroxine is usually taken for life.
Liothyronine is another form of hormone replacement drug but is less commonly prescribed. It is the synthetic form of T3 hormone.
NDT or Natural Desiccated Hormone is a non-synthetic hormone replacement drug made using the thyroid glands of pigs. NDT is made by brands such as Armour Thyroid and Nature-throid and is most commonly prescribed by naturopathic doctors.
Alternative medicines and lifestyle changes are sometimes used to supplement the treatment of hypothyroidism. For example, one study of female patients found that yoga helped to ease the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Other treatments worth trying may include vitamins, mindfulness, meditation, hypnosis, and special diet plans such as low-iodine diets. Small lifestyle changes such as these may help to combat the symptoms of weight gain, fatigue, and mood swings. However, alternative medicines and lifestyle changes treat the symptoms rather than the cause of hypothyroidism and can only supplement medical treatment, not replace it. Remember to consult your doctor before taking alternative medicines.
If you have been prescribed thyroid medication by your doctor, consider shopping online to get the best value for your thyroid treatment.