Ask A Nurse - Hypothyroidism - Underactive Thyroid


Cathy discusses hypothyroidism. She explains causes of hypothyroidism, signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism, and diagnosis and treatment of hypothyroidism.

  • 00:00 What to expect - Hypothyroidism
  • 00:19 What is hypothyroidism?
  • 1:00 What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
  • 1:30 What causes hypothyroidism?
  • 2:10 How is hypothyroidism diagnosed and treated?

Full Transcript: Ask A Nurse - Hypothyroidism - Underactive Thyroid

Hi, I'm Cathy with Level Up RN. In this episode of Ask a Nurse, I'll be answering your questions about hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid, such as what causes hypothyroidism? What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism? And how is hypothyroidism diagnosed and treated? Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid is where the thyroid gland, which is a small butterfly-shaped organ in your neck, does not make enough thyroid hormones. So hypo means below normal, so with this disorder, we have a below normal amount of thyroid hormones being produced. Thyroid hormones are essential for many processes in the body, including metabolism, heart function, digestion, body temperature regulation, as well as brain development, just to name a few. And without enough thyroid hormones, many of your body's functions slow down.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, dry skin, dry thinning hair, weight gain, a puffy face, decreased heart rate, cold intolerance, joint or muscle pain, depression, constipation, as well as heavy or irregular menstrual periods. And then some individuals may get a goiter, which is enlargement of the thyroid gland, which may cause the neck to appear swollen. Hashimoto's disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. This is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system, which is supposed to protect the body, instead attacks the thyroid gland, causing damage, which prevents the thyroid gland from producing enough thyroid hormones. Other causes of hypothyroidism include thyroiditis, which is inflammation of the thyroid gland, as well as certain medications. And then individuals who have had surgical removal of all or part of the thyroid gland or radiation treatment of the thyroid gland, will also develop hypothyroidism.

To diagnose hypothyroidism, your provider will ask you questions about your medical history and details regarding your symptoms. They will also perform a physical exam and order thyroid blood tests, which may include TSH, T3, and/or T4. So TSH, which is thyroid-stimulating hormone, is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland in your brain, which prompts the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones, which include T3 and T4. Most individuals with an underactive thyroid gland will have elevated levels of TSH and decreased levels of T4. However, rare cases of hypothyroidism may be caused by an issue with the pituitary gland, which will cause decreased levels of both TSH and T4.

Treatment of hypothyroidism includes replacing the thyroid hormones that your body can no longer make with a thyroid hormone medication such as levothyroxine. When you first start taking this medication, you will need to have regular blood work done every six to eight weeks, approximately, to make sure the dose is just right, so not too high and not too low. Once the right dose is established, then you will likely only need to get blood work done every six months and then only once a year. It's really important that you take your medication as directed on an ongoing basis. Abrupt discontinuation of your thyroid hormone medication can lead to very serious health complications. It is typically recommended that individuals take this medication in the morning with a glass of water about 30 to 60 minutes before breakfast. But definitely follow your provider's specific instructions.

Okay, that is it for this episode of Ask a Nurse. I hope you have found it to be helpful. If you have a health issue or concern you would like me to address in a future episode, then definitely, leave that in the comments. Stay informed and stay well.

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