Hypothyroidism

Alternative Names

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.

Symptoms

Early symptoms:

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:

Treatment

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.

Expectations (prognosis)

In most cases, thyroid levels return to normal with proper treatment. However, thyroid hormone replacement must be taken for the rest of your life.

Review

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

Endocrine glands
Hypothyroidism
Brain-thyroid link
Thyroid gland

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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