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Hypothyroidism: Not Enough Thyroid Hormone

By HERWriter
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Hypothyroidism related image Photo: Getty Images

Approximately 10 million people in the United States have hypothyroidism including an estimated 10 percent of all American women. This condition can have widespread consequences throughout the body. There are a variety of diseases and conditions that can cause hypothyroidism.

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland is located in the front part of the neck below the voice box (larynx). The thyroid produces thyroid hormone which is a chemical messenger used by the brain to control metabolism.

Metabolism is the combination of all the processes in the body that convert or use energy, including breathing, blood circulation, temperature, digestion, muscle movement, and brain function. Thyroid hormone also affects growth and development.

The amount of thyroid hormone produced by the body is regulated by other glands called the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. These two glands detect chemicals in the blood and release their own hormones to trigger the thyroid to release more or less thyroid hormone.

What causes hypothyroidism?

Some common causes of hypothyroidism include:

• Thyroid inflammation – swelling in the thyroid can damage the cells in the gland that produce thyroid hormone. This may be the result of an autoimmune condition attacking the thyroid gland.

• Pregnancy – Some women develop hypothyroidism after giving birth.

• Birth defects

• Radiation treatments – Radioactive iodine used to treat overactive thyroid or radiation to treat cancer of the neck or brain can damage the thyroid.

• Surgery to remove part of the thyroid due to other thyroid problems.

• Certain medications

Hypothyroidism is more likely to occur in women than in men and is more common after age 50. The condition can usually be diagnosed through a blood test, although some people require more extensive testing. If you have questions or concerns about hypothyroidism, talk to your health care provider.


Medline Plus. Hypothyroidism. Web. December 4, 2011.

PubMed Health. Hypothyroidism. Web. December 4, 2011.

Endocrine Web. Hypothyroidism: Too Little Thyroid Hormone. James Norman, MD, FACS, FACE. Web. December 4, 2011.

Medicine Net. Hypothyroidism. Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C). Web. December 4, 2011.

Medline Plus. Metabolism. Web. December 4, 2011.

Reviewed December 6, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Thank you for including information on hypothyroidism at empowher.com. The lack of awareness about this disease is pervasive among the public and medical community. Thank you for providing this helpful article on hypothyroidism. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism following the birth of my first son in 2006 and experienced many of the symptoms you have listed. I trusted my doctors completely assuming they knew everything there was to know about this disease, especially when I became pregnant again in late 2008. How wrong I was! Under their care my TSH, the gold standard for measuring thyroid function, rose high above the safe range for pregnancy and I miscarried. I vowed to myself that I would research everything there was to know about hypothyroidism and warn other women. I fulfilled my vow and launched my blog Hypothyroid Mom in memory of the baby I lost to hypothyroidism.

October 21, 2012 - 5:28am

It truly amazes me just how different each person is. I have tried to understand why some people with hypothyroidism can do great taking one simple pill once a day, and yet others like me are still trying to find that perfect dose!

I hope that more research goes onto how the thyroid effects the body, as there may be many other symptoms people may have that may due to lack of thyroid hormones!

Thanks for the article, and thank you for acknowledging that not all people are treated the same, as not all people react the same :)


December 7, 2011 - 3:03pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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