By Dr. Manpreet Grewal
The thyroid is a small gland located just below your Adam’s apple. Hormones produced by the thyroid gland — triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) — control the metabolism, or how your body’s cells use energy from food. These hormones also regulate vital functions including body temperature and heart rate.
You should consult your doctor if you feel unusually tired and experience symptoms such as dry skin, increased sensitivity to cold, aching muscles, irregular menstrual periods, bloating, constipation, memory loss, or losing your voice. Together, these symptoms could indicate hypothyroidism. Your doctor will conduct a blood test to measure the levels of thyroid hormones present, which indicates if your thyroid is underactive.
If the tests indicate you are experiencing hypothyroidism, they will also help your doctor determine the right dosage of medicine to prescribe. Treatment is generally daily injections of synthetic thyroid hormones, and your doctor may repeat these tests at least annually to ensure you continue to receive the right levels of hormones.
You are at increased risk for hypothyroidism if you are a woman, older than 60, have a family history of thyroid disease, have an autoimmune disease such as type 1 diabetes or celiac disease, have been treated with radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications, received radiation to your neck or upper chest, have had thyroid surgery, or have been pregnant or delivered a baby within the past six months. Some medications, such as lithium, can also contribute to thyroid disorders.
If left untreated, hypothyroidism may result in complications such as goiters, neuropathy, infertility, and birth defects to babies born to women with hypothyroidism.