When you hear hypothyroidism, you should then think about a thyroid that is underactive. This is the condition in which the thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Meaning, there will be a decrease in your metabolic rate that affects all of your body systems. Women, especially those older than age 60, are more likely to have hypothyroidism. This condition upsets the normal balance of chemical reactions that occur in your body. Keep in mind that it will seldom cause symptoms in the early stages, but over time untreated hypothyroidism can cause several different health problems such as obesity, joint pain, and even heart disease.
The good news in all of this is that there are very precise thyroid function tests that can be done to diagnose this condition. Not to mention the treatment of hypothyroidism is usually simple, safe, and very effective with an oral medication once your provider decides which dose of medication is right for you! You could be diagnosed with one of three classifications of hypothyroidism as described below:
Ø Primary – Primary hypothyroidism stems from dysfunction of the thyroid gland. This is the most common type, and it is caused by disease (Hashimoto’s disease) or loss of the thyroid gland (iodine deficiency, surgical removal of the gland).
Ø Secondary – Secondary hypothyroidism is caused by failure of the anterior pituitary gland (a gland in the brain) to stimulate the thyroid gland or failure of the target tissues to respond to the thyroid hormones. Pituitary tumors can be the cause of this class of hypothyroidism, which will be diagnosed by your provider.
Ø Tertiary – Tertiary hypothyroidism is caused by failure of the hypothalamus (an area in the brain) to produce thyroid-releasing factor, which is what causes the thyroid to be underactive.
Hypothyroidism is also classified by age of onset with adult of course being our focus here at Total Home Health, but it doesn’t hurt to be a little familiar with the others, which include:
Ø Cretinism – State of severe hypothyroidism found in infants.
Ø Juvenile – Hypothyroidism that occurs during childhood maturation.
Ø Adult – Hypothyroidism occurs during adulthood, which involves you…our main focus.
Being an older adult, the process of aging is in full swing which causes many of our functions to decline anyway. Therefore, it is important for you to remember that because older adult clients who have hypothyroidism may have manifestations that mimic the natural aging process, it often is undiagnosed. If this condition is undiagnosed it can lead to potentially serious adverse reactions from some medications you may take. Now that you have more of an understanding of what hypothyroidism is, here are some risk factors:
Ø Most prevalent in women, with incidence rising significantly in those who are 30 to 60 years of age.
Ø Use of the medications lithium and amiodarone.
Ø Inadequate intake of iodine.
Now that you know what puts you more at risk, following are some early and late signs and symptoms you may deal with if you do indeed have hypothyroidism. Remember though, hypothyroidism is often characterized by vague and varied findings that develop slowly over time, that will be directly related to the severity of your condition. Keep in mind that your body and its functions will slow down with this condition and you may experience the following:
Ø Early findings
ü Fatigue, irritability
ü Intolerance to cold
ü Weight gain, even without eating more
ü Pale skin, thinning hair
ü Thin, brittle fingernails
ü Joint and/or muscle pain
Ø Late findings
ü Decreased heart rate, low blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm
ü Slow thought process and speech
ü Decreased respiratory rate
ü Thickening of skin
ü Thinning of eyebrows
ü Dry, flaky skin
ü Swelling in face, hands, and feet
ü Decrease in senses of taste and smell
ü Hoarse, raspy voice
ü Decreased libido
Once your provider confirms that you are experiencing hypothyroidism, you will most likely be treated with an oral medication called levothyroxine (Synthroid). Once started on this medication and the correct dose is determined for you, you will be required to take it for the rest of your life in order to keep your thyroid functioning at its most optimal level. The nursing professionals with Total Home Health will visit you frequently during your course of treatment to assess for any adverse effects. No worries though, because Total Home Health staff will provide you with education on any topic related to hypothyroidism and be proactive with our treatment measures. Also, do not forget that our compassionate professionals are easy to approach and will address all your concerns to the best of our abilities. Our goal will be to promote your health and prevent any complications that hypothyroidism may cause to see that you continue your daily routine with the least amount of interruptions!