Myxedema; Adult hypothyroidism
Definition of Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck just below the voice box (larynx). It releases hormones that control metabolism.
Signs and tests
A physical examination may reveal a smaller than normal thyroid gland, although sometimes the gland is normal size or even enlarged (goiter). The examination may also reveal:
The purpose of treatment is to replace the thyroid hormone that is lacking. Levothyroxine is the most commonly used medication. Doctors will prescribe the lowest dose possible that effectively relieves symptoms and brings your TSH level to a normal range. If you have heart disease or you are older, your doctor may start with a very small dose.
In most cases, thyroid levels return to normal with proper treatment. However, thyroid hormone replacement must be taken for the rest of your life.
Ari S. Eckman, MD, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 4/19/2010