Hypothyroidism

Tamara Maher, DO -  - Family Medicine Physician

Maher Family Practice

Tamara Maher, DO

Family Medicine Physician located in Los Alamitos, CA

If you’ve been feeling low, lethargic, and noticed changes in your skin, hair, and weight, there are a number of potential causes, one of which is hypothyroidism. It's essential to get an accurate diagnosis and start on the correct treatment for this condition. If you live in the Los Alamitos area of California, make an appointment to see Tamara Maher, DO, of Maher Family Practice. Dr. Maher is highly skilled at diagnosing and treating thyroid disorders, so call the practice today, or make an appointment online.

Hypothyroidism Q & A

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a chronic condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland is in your neck, and its role is to manufacture thyroid hormone, which is used by the body to regulate your metabolism.

If your thyroid gland isn’t making enough hormones your metabolism slows down, affecting your normal body processes such as temperature regulation and how your body burns calories. You’re more likely to develop hypothyroidism if you have:

  • White or Asian heritage
  • Prematurely gray hair
  • An autoimmune disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Down syndrome
  • Turner syndrome

Women, especially as they age, are more likely to develop thyroid problems, but men aren’t immune to hypothyroidism.

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

One of the problems in identifying hypothyroidism is that the symptoms can also arise from many other common causes. Typical symptoms include:

  • Weight gain and inability to lose weight
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Depression
  • Changes in your menstrual cycle
  • Dry hair and skin
  • Slower heart rate
  • Temperature sensitivity or intolerance
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

You may also notice a lump called a goiter developing in your throat, due to swelling of the thyroid gland.

What causes hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is most commonly due to a condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This is an autoimmune disorder in which your body produces antibodies that target the thyroid gland, damaging and eventually destroying it. Other causes of hypothyroidism include:

  • Radiation treatment to the neck in cancer patients
  • Radioactive iodine treatment for an overactive thyroid
  • Certain types of medication used for other conditions
  • Thyroid surgery
  • Iodine deficiency in the diet
  • Damage or disease in the pituitary gland
  • Congenital thyroid problems

In some cases, conditions affecting the hypothalamus in the brain can cause hypothyroidism, but this is rare.

How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?

When you visit Dr. Maher, she’ll look at your medical history and ask you about your symptoms. If she suspects hypothyroidism, she orders blood tests for confirmation. The tests measure the levels of:

  • Thyroxine or T4, the thyroid hormone
  • TSH, the thyroid-stimulating hormone

If your result shows a low T4 level, it would indicate hypothyroidism. If you have raised TSH levels but normal T4 levels, it could be due to subclinical hypothyroidism, which can develop into full hypothyroidism over time.

How is hypothyroidism treated?

Managing hypothyroidism involves having regular blood tests to check for T4 and TSH levels, and in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the levels of antibodies in your blood. The blood tests are important in making sure you take the right dose of T4 each day, and if necessary Dr. Maher can adjust your prescription if rates rise or fall.

The sooner you start receiving treatment for hypothyroidism, the more quickly you’ll recover, so if you’re experiencing any symptoms, call Maher Family Practice today, or book an appointment online.