Your thyroid is a gland below the Adam’s apple in your neck.
Your thyroid releases thyroid hormones. The hormones control how fast your body’s chemical functions work (metabolic rate). Almost every cell in your body needs thyroid hormones. Among many other things, thyroid hormones help control:
How fast you burn calories
How fast your heart beats
Your body temperature
Iodine is needed by your thyroid gland in order to make thyroid hormones. You need only a tiny amount of iodine. But if your thyroid gland doesn't get iodine, it won't make enough thyroid hormones.
Locating the Thyroid Gland
What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid doesn't make enough thyroid hormones.
Hypothyroidism is common, especially among older women
You may feel tired, sluggish, and cold
Hypothyroidism usually develops slowly
Blood tests can confirm you have hypothyroidism
You may need to take thyroid hormone pills for the rest of your life
What causes hypothyroidism?
Causes of hypothyroidism include:
Surgery or radiation therapy to remove or stop the thyroid
Lack of iodine
Pituitary gland problems
In Hashimoto thyroiditis, Hashimoto Thyroiditis Your thyroid is a gland below the Adam’s apple in your neck. Your thyroid releases thyroid hormones. The hormones control how fast your body’s chemical functions work (metabolic rate). Almost... read more your body's immune system Overview of the Immune System The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system's job is to attack things that don’t belong in your body, including: Germs... read more mistakenly attacks your thyroid. This type of disease is called an autoimmune disease Autoimmune Diseases The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system usually attacks invading bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. With an autoimmune... read more .
Lack of iodine is rare in modern countries. Most countries put a little iodine in salt so everybody gets enough. There's also iodine in seafood. People in some poor countries far from the sea are at risk of not getting enough iodine.
The pituitary gland Overview of the Pituitary Gland The pituitary gland is a pea-sized bit of tissue at the bottom of your brain. Glands are organs that make and release hormones into your blood. Hormones are chemicals that stimulate other cells... read more in your brain makes a hormone called TSH that tells your thyroid to make thyroid hormones. If you have a problem with your pituitary gland, it might not make TSH and you'll get hypothyroidism.
Who can get hypothyroidism?
Almost anyone can get hypothyroidism, but it's more common in older people. Sometimes, hypothyroidism can happen in:
Women during or just after pregnancy
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
Not making enough thyroid hormones cause your body functions to slow down, which can affect how you look, sound, or feel.
Symptoms that affect the way you look or sound may include:
Puffy eyes and face and droopy eyelids
Thin, rough, dry hair
Rough, dry, scaly, thick skin
Hoarse voice and slow speech
Symptoms that affect the way you feel may include:
Getting cold easily
Tingling or hurting hands
Slow heart beat
If not treated, hypothyroidism can eventually cause:
In older people, confusion and forgetfulness may be mistaken for Alzheimer disease Alzheimer Disease Alzheimer disease is a type of dementia that usually affects people older than 65. Dementia is a brain problem that makes it hard to remember, think, understand language, and learn. Brain problems... read more or some other kind of dementia Dementia Dementia is a brain problem that makes it hard to remember, think, and learn. Most dementia begins little by little and starts after age 65. It’s normal for the brain to change with age, but... read more .
How can doctors tell if I have hypothyroidism?
Doctors will do:
Thyroid function tests Overview of the Thyroid Gland Your thyroid is a gland below the Adam’s apple in the front of your neck. Glands make and release hormones. Hormones stimulate other cells or tissues into action. The thyroid makes thyroid hormones... read more , including blood tests and imaging tests of your thyroid gland
How do doctors treat hypothyroidism?
Doctors treat hypothyroidism with:
Thyroid hormone pills
After you start the pills, your doctor will gradually adjust the dose based on your TSH level. It's important to talk to your doctor about medicines that interfere with absorbing thyroid hormone. Such medicines include iron, calcium, and some antacids.