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What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism affects over 5% of the population. It is more common in women and in the elderly. The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped organ that is located in the neck below the voice box. It is responsible for secreting a hormone that regulates the body's energy production. Hypothyroidism is a condition where there are lower than normal levels of the thyroid hormone in the blood.

What causes hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is usually caused by the immune system attacking and damaging the thyroid gland. The cause of the immune attack is usually not known, but it causes the thyroid gland to become underactive. When levels of thyroid hormones are abnormally low, there is a decrease in energy production. This interferes with many vital functions, including one's heartbeat and body temperature.

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

The symptoms of hypothyroidism range. The most common signs are lack of energy; a constant tired feeling; constipation; abnormal sensitivity to cold temperatures; muscle cramps and stiffness; weight gain (often in spite of poor appetite); dry skin and hair; hair loss; hoarseness or husky voice; slowed heart rate; and sometimes psychiatric symptoms, including depression.

How is hypothyroidism treated?

Hypothyroidism is treated with replacement doses of the synthetic thyroid hormone.