Hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone) is a condition caused when the thyroid gland produces too little or no T hormones. The hormones produced by the thyroid gland regulate the metabolism, and when they are not present, symptoms associated with slow metabolism occur.
Who Is Affected
According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, hypothyroidism typically affects women over 50. However, it is possible that it may occur within any gender or age group.
There are very few if any initial symptoms. The hormone production of the thyroid gland typically decreases at such a slow rate that the condition has been present for some time when it is finally diagnosed.
The First Symptoms
When symptoms do start to appear, it is often in the form of fatigue and a general sluggish feeling. James Norman, MD, states in an article published on endocrineweb.com that in many cases the first symptoms are "just so subtle that they go unnoticed."
As T hormone levels continue to drop and the body further succumbs to the effects of this, more noticeable symptoms may be present. The primary symptom is unexplained weight gain. Individuals with hypothyroidism often gain weight regardless of diet or exercise.
Advanced Symptoms Continued
Other symptoms of advanced hypothyroidism include: joint pain, swelling or puffiness of the face, a suddenly deepening and/or hoarse voice, elevated cholesterol and constipation. Typically, sufferers will have a combination of these symptoms.
Individuals suffering from low thyroid hormone levels are prescribed synthetic replacement hormones to be taken orally. Physicians typically use varying doses of the drug levothyroxine to supplement T hormone levels.