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Occasionally, a person may not produce enough thyroid hormone. This condition where the thyroid hormone is underactive is known as hypothyroidism. It is often underdiagnosed and affects people of all ages. It is estimated that as many as ten to thirty million people suffer It is a life changing condition that can affect a person’s quality of life and can become life threatening. There are multiple symptoms associated with hypothyroidism; the five symptoms that will be discussed are fatigue, weight gain, low body temperature, higher cholesterol, and hair loss. To better understand, one must first understand the thyroid. The thyroid is a small butterfly shaped gland which is located in the neck. The thyroid produces a hormone which affects metabolism, growth, and development. The thyroid produces two main hormones called T3 and T4. These hormones travel in the blood to different parts of the body. The thyroid hormone controls the rate of many activities in your body. These activities include how fast you burn calories and how fast your heart beats. All of these characteristics make up the body’s metabolism. A thyroid that functions properly will produce the right amounts of hormones needed to keep your body’s metabolism in balance. An underactive thyroid can have significant effects on individuals. Many of the core symptoms can mimic psychological disorders or typical symptoms of aging. However, over time, hypothyroidism can lead to more serious conditions such as heart attack and diabetes. Since the thyroid affects many functions of the body the symptoms can be numerous and vary greatly Individuals that experience thyroid-related fatigue cannot sustain energy for a long period of time. Many people notice they cannot do the things they used to do. People with this fatigue may have trouble exercising, staying awake, and may not be able to get a restful night’s sleep. Sleep patterns may change and some may feel un-refreshed after hours of sleep. Due to this lack of restful sleep, mental clarity can be affected. Fatigue can be seen as a result of stress on the body from having a rapid pulse, high blood pressure, diarrhea, and tremors which are associated with hypothyroidism
The thyroid regulates a person’s metabolism. Therefore, hypothyroidism causes some to experience weight gain. Metabolism is determined by measuring the amount of oxygen used by the body over a specific amount of time. If the measurement is made at rest, it is known as the basal metabolic rate. Patients whose thyroid is low, are found to have low basal metabolic rates. However, the decrease in the basal metabolic rate due to hypothyroidism is generally not dramatic. Massive weight gain is rarely seen and most patients will only gain five to ten pounds. Most of the weight is the result of the accumulation of water and salt The temperature of a person’s body is important to their overall health. The body’s temperature is regulated by their metabolism. The metabolism converts food into energy using oxygen and catalysts present in the body. Energy is required for all processes in the body whether they are basic or strenuous. During the chemical reaction for metabolism, heat is produced. The produced heat is transported to the body in the blood. Blood plays an essential role in heat transfer. When the body is cold, blood circulation slows down so the heat can be maintained at the center of the body. When this cycle is disrupted by an underactive thyroid the metabolism slows. The body cannot retain heat at the same rate as a normal thyroid. While this symptom can affect both men and women, men are more susceptible to experience low body temperature
Hypothyroidism is the second leading cause of high cholesterol. When the TH levels drop the liver doesn’t function properly. It begins to produce excess cholesterol, fatty acids, and triglycerides. This can lead to heart disease or heart attack. Some people may experience a yellowing of the skin due to carotenoid deposits in the skin. This occurs when the liver cannot store enough vitamin A.
Hypothyroidism can affect hair loss on a person’s entire body. It is influenced by a hormonal imbalance throughout the body. One noticeable sign of hair loss caused by low thyroid is loss of eyebrow hair. Although this does not cause entire loss of eyebrows, it can lead to extreme thinning of parts of the eyebrows. The hair on ones scalp changes texture becoming brittle and dry. The hair on the scalp can also begin to fall out in very small clumps. The loss of hair can be seen not only on the scalp but on the arms, underarms, and legs (Minton, 2009).
When a person fears they have hypothyroidism a doctor may order a blood test to check their TSH levels. This has become the most reliable test combined with identifying the symptoms. This is a simple blood test that checks the level of the thyroid stimulating hormone also known as TSH. The levels for normal TSH levels vary from .5 to 4.5/5. These results are mainly for adults and will vary based on severity. The validity of this test has been controversial. The medical community often disagrees on what is considered normal levels of TSH. Thus, many people remain undiagnosed.
Hypothyroidism is a serious condition that can affect a person’s quality of life. People of all ages, gender, and nationalities suffer. Early recognition and treatment can help improve the success of treating hypothyroidism.

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