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Symptoms of hypothyroidism

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The symptoms of hypothyroidism can be of many types. Some patients show no symptoms, while others show some marked symptoms. In some rare cases, the patients demonstrate even life-threatening symptoms. The symptoms of hypothyroidism are known for their nonspecific nature and in many ways are similar to the normal signs of aging.

The symptoms usually depend on the severity of the hormone deficiency and the rate at which it develops in the patient. The symptoms are usually milder at the beginning but develop gradually as the condition deteriorates.

Early Symptoms of hypothyroidism:

Many people attribute the early symptoms of hypothyroidism to stress or aging. Since thyroid hormone stimulates metabolism thereby a lack of it slows down the metabolic processes. The general symptoms are weight gain, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, sluggishness, and intolerance towards cold weather.

Apart from these early symptoms some more symptoms are as follows:

  • Due to hypothyroidism there is marked reduction in sweating. The skin may turn dry and thick. The hair may become coarse or thin. At times eyebrows disappears and nails become brittle.
  • Hypothyroidism also affects the menstrual cycle in women. The women suffer from a range of irregularities ranging from absent or infrequent periods to very frequent and heavy periods. This affects the reproductive system in the women and makes it difficult for her to conceive a baby. When a pregnant woman suffers from hypothyroidism, she suffers from an increased risk of miscarriage.
  • Hypothyroidism also affects the functionality of the digestive systems. It slows the actions of the digestive tract resulting in constipation. Though very rarely, hypothyroidism also stops the digestive tract from moving the contents entirely.
  • As said before, hypothyroidism result in fatigue as it depresses the nervous system.

If hypothyroidism is left untreated it manifests the following symptoms at a later stage: 

  • At times people develop hypothyroidism due to the treatment for hyperthyroidism caused by Graves' disease. Under such circumstances, they may retain the eye symptoms of Graves' disease, like protrusion of the eyes, the appearance of staring, and impaired movement of the eyes. Hypothyroidism may also cause mild swelling around the eyes.
  • A person suffering from severe hypothyroidism at times though very rarely suffers from myxedema coma. The condition of myxedema coma is triggered by trauma, infection, exposure to the cold, and certain medications. Myxedema coma is a life-threatening condition causing not only a loss of consciousness, but also hypothermia (low body temperature).
  • The patient may also suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome due to hypothyroidism demonstrating symptoms like paresthesias, numbness and muscle weakness in the hand.
  • Hypothyroidism also weakens the respiratory muscles and decreases the functionality of the lungs. As a result, a person suffering from hypothyroidism may also manifest symptoms that are cardiovascular in nature like fatigue, shortness of breath on exertion, and decreased ability to exercise. Moreover, the patient may also suffer from swelling of the tongue and develops a hoarse voice.
  • Hypothyroidism decreases the functionality of the cardiovascular system by slowing down the heart rate and by weakening the contractions of the heart. As a result, a person suffering from hypothyroidism manifest symptoms like fatigue and shortness of breathe during exercise. These symptoms are more pronounced in hypothyroid patients suffering from other cardiovascular diseases. Apart from this, hypothyroidism also causes mild hypertension and raises the cholesterol levels in the blood. 
  • The person may also suffer from sleep apnea due to hypothyroidism. Sleep apneais asleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing due to periodic blockage of the airway while sleeping, fitful sleep, and daytime sleepiness.


Symptoms of hypothyroidism in Infants and Children

Currently, all newborns are now tested for hypothyroidism. This helps in preventing retardation in children due to the presence of hypothyroidism. However, if the condition is not detected and the child is left untreated, he will demonstrate a number of symptoms.

Early symtoms:

  • Feeding problems
  • Constipation
  • Hoarseness
  • Sleepiness

At a later stage, the child would demonstrate symptoms like: 

  • Protruding abdomens
  • Rough and dry skin
  • Delayed teething

However, if the child does not receive any treatment at this stage, the child would be extremely short for his age. Moreover, he may have a puffy and bloated appearance. He may also be of below-normal intelligence. Any child with abnormal growth rate should be checked for hypothyroidism.

Next page: Diagnosis of hypothyroidism

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: April 16, 2012