What is Hypothyroidism and Its Effects If Untreated?

Thyroid gland is the largest endocrine gland in the body. This endocrine organ in the form of a butterfly is responsible for regulating the metabolic processes in the body and cellular respiration.

Thyroid produces two thyroid hormones and triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). The release of thyroid hormones in the bloodstream allows smooth flow of the metabolic processes of the cell level.

Increased thyroid function followed by excessive secretion of thyroid hormones is known as hyperthyroidism, and reduced secretion of thyroid hormones called hypothyroidism.

What are the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism?

Decreased function of the thyroid gland can cause the following symptoms and signs: fatigue, weakness, lack of energy, drowsiness, coarse dry hair, hair loss, dry skin, brittle nails, weight gain despite reduced appetite, difficulty losing excess weight, constipation, cold intolerance (you can’t tolerate cold temperatures like those around you), muscle and joint pain, muscle cramps, swelling of hands and feet, memory disorders, swelling around the eyes, abnormal menstrual cycles, decreased libido, irritability, depression.

When the function of the thyroid gland is reduced, the clinical picture is individual and can be manifested by different combination of any of the above mentioned symptoms and signs. Severity of symptoms varies depending on the severity of the disease (what is the lack of thyroid hormones, what is the time period of hormonal deficiency etc.).

Part of the patients may not experience any symptoms or they are just so subtle that they go unnoticed so the disease can linger for years. Therefore, if you have any of these symptoms, consult your doctor or a specialist endocrinologist.

What happens if hypothyroidism is left untreated?

Late detection and treatment of hypothyroidism can result in:
  • Goiter. Because the body needs thyroid hormones, and in case of hypothyroidism the required quantity is missing, body increasingly secretes another hormone called TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). This hormone is to stimulate the thyroid to release more thyroid hormones. The constant “bombardment” with the thyroid TSH can cause an enlarged thyroid goiter.
  • Cardiac problems. Decreased function of the thyroid gland can cause heart problems. Due to lack of thyroid hormones the level of LDL (bad cholesterol) increases, and it can lead to heart attack. Hypothyroidism can cause pericardial effusion (fluid around the heart), which complicates the heart function.
  • Infertility. If the level of thyroid hormone is extremely low, it can affect ovulation and consequently women have difficulty conceiving.
  • Peripheral neuropathy. Pain, tingling, reduced sensitivity to touch are just some of the symptoms that may indicate that untreated hypothyroidism had caused damage to the peripheral Symptoms usually occur on the hands and feet.
  • Health problems in newborns. If a woman is pregnant and at the same time has thyroid disease which is not properly treated, the likelihood that the baby will have intellectual and developmental disabilities is significantly Infants who are deficient in thyroid hormones have a serious risk of falling behind in physical and mental development. Fortunately, with early detection of the condition and providing appropriate treatment, the risk is practically canceled.
  • Myxedema. It is a condition that occurs in people with severe, untreated Moreover generalized edema, heart failure occurs, pericardial effusion, hyponatremia, reduced intestinal motility and coma.
How to diagnose hypothyroidism?

Due to the variable clinical picture of the disease, the diagnosis of hypothyroidism can be a major medical challenge. In order to have an accurate diagnosis, a good history and a detailed physical examination needs to be done. For final diagnosis, it is necessary to run further laboratory tests for levels of T3, T4 and TSH.


Treatment of hypothyroidism consists of receiving daily produced synthetic thyroid hormone. It takes a certain period of time before determining what the proper dose for a patient is. Oral therapy for hypothyroidism is taken for life.

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Source: Pituitary

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