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Conditions InDepth: Hypothyroidism
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. A healthy thyroid produces the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which control metabolism. This affects how many calories you burn, how warm you feel, how much you weigh, and how the body handles functions of the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. Hypothyroidism results in a slower metabolism and a slower heartbeat.
Hashimoto's thyroiditis occurs when the immune system produces antibodies that attack cells of the thyroid gland. This results in thyroid swelling. Other less common causes include hypothyroidism as a result of neck radiation for lymphoma and treatment of hyperthyroidism or thyroid cancer with radioactive iodine or surgery.
Other causes of hypothyroidism include:
About 5% of Americans have hypothyroidism. This condition usually occurs in adults. But, in some cases, children or infants may have hypothyroidism (called cretinism). Children need treatment as quickly as possible or intellectual disability may result.
• What are the risk factors of hypothyroidism? • What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism? • How is hypothyroidism diagnosed? • What are the treatments for hypothyroidism? • Are there screening tests for hypothyroidism? • How can I reduce my risk of hypothyroidism? • What questions should I ask my doctor? • Where can I get more information about hypothyroidism?
Garber JR, Hennessey JV, Liebermann JA, Morris CM. Clinical update. Managing the challenges of hypothyroidism. J Fam Pract . 2006;55:S1-8.
Hypothyroidism. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated November 19, 2012. Accessed November 20, 2012.
Hypothyroidism. National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service website. Available at: http://endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/Hypothyroidism/ . Updated February 27, 2012. Accessed November 20, 2012.
Vanderpump MPJ, Tunbridge WMG, French JM, et al. The incidence of thyroid disorders in the community: a twenty-year follow-up of the Whickham survey. Clin Endocrinol . 1995; 43:55.
Last reviewed March 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
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