Hypothyroidism is a condition which produces a variety of symptoms. Some of these symptoms are common and well known to doctors and the public, such as low energy levels and weight gain. Others are less common and mimic symptoms of unrelated diseases. These unusual symptoms can make it difficult to diagnose hypothyroidism and treatment is often delayed. Being able to recognize some of the lesser-known symptoms of hypothyroidism can help patients receive the medical care they need.
The thyroid gland produces hormones which play a large role in helping the body maintain a healthy, balanced state. It affects growth, metabolism, circulation and cholesterol levels. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland is producing below normal levels of these important hormones. When the body is lacking the correct level of thyroid hormones, it struggles to come back into balance, which results in a variety of symptoms.
The brain and the pituitary gland work together with the thyroid gland. Low levels of thyroid hormones can often be the cause of depression in both men and women. Depression is characterized by a withdrawal from normal activities, lack of interest in surroundings and a general feeling of malaise. Men and women experiencing depression may be suffering from the effects of hypothyroidism.
Reproduction and Infant Development
Women with hypothyroidism can experience irregular menstrual periods, which in turn affects the ability to conceive. Menstrual periods may become heavier than normal. Development of hyperthyroidism in pregnant women puts the fetus at risk of being born with birth defects or improper fetal development. Infants born with hypothyroidism sometimes have a tongue that's larger than normal and which tends to protrude from the mouth. Children and teens who are born with or develop hypothyroidism often experience delayed puberty and their permanent teeth may develop later than normal.
Hypothyroidism also affects the skin's sensitivity to cold and can cause skin to take on a pale and dry appearance. Nails and hair often become brittle and dry. The face can become puffy looking and both a man and woman's voice sounds horse. Sometimes the skin and eyes of infants born with hypothyroidism or without a thyroid gland develop a yellow color due to the inability to metabolize a substance related to blood formation.
Since the thyroid hormones keep the vessels of the heart flexible, hypothyroidism has a strong effect on the heart's circulation process. The vessels begin to stiffen and the heart must then pump harder, which results in a rise in blood pressure. Sometimes individuals experience dizziness and nosebleeds due to development of hypertension.