Hypothyroidism - Medical Malpractice Lawyers

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Hypothyroidism - Medical Malpractice

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the body does not have enough circulating thyroid hormone. The thyroid hormone is made in the thyroid gland, located in the anterior portion of the neck, below the larynx. Thyroid hormone is crucial to the metabolism of the body and without it, the body's cells cannot function properly. The metabolism is slow and there are many symptoms.

Hypothyroidism is common. As many as ten percent of women suffer from some degree of hypothyroidism which accounts for 10 million people. There are many more millions of people who have the disease but do not know it.

There are several common causes of hypothyroidism of which there are two common causes. The first cause is persistent inflammation of the thyroid gland, which kills off the thyroid tissue. This is called autoimmune thyroiditis or Hashimoto's thyroiditis. It is an autoimmune disease where the immune system mistakes a part of itself as being a foreign substance and antibodies are made against the human tissue.

The second main cause of hypothyroidism is surgical removal of the thyroid due to hyperthyroidism or thyroid cancer. The surgery removes the thyroid tissue and renders the body hypothyroid. If the surgery is just to remove a nodule that is eventually benign, there may or may not be enough of the remainder of the thyroid to make the person have enough thyroid hormone. It can take several years before the remaining thyroid gland eventually gives out, leading to hypothyroidism.

Sometimes treatment with radioactive iodine can contribute to hypothyroidism. The radioactive iodine is done in order to suppress a hyperactive thyroid gland but the end result is that the entire thyroid is killed off by the radioactivity and is nonfunctional. The person is left in a hypothyroid state. It often takes 1-2 years to become hypothyroid after radioactive treatments.

Rarely, hypothyroidism can be caused by an ineffective pituitary gland. The pituitary gland makes thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) which is vital for the making and secretion of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland. With a low TSH level, you have secondary hypothyroidism.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism includes fatigue, weight gain, weakness, coarse and dry hair, cold intolerance, hair loss, dry and rough skin, constipation, muscle cramps and aches, irritability, abnormal menses, memory loss and decreased libido. You can have many of these symptoms or just a few of them. Most people will have at least some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism unless the disease is mild. A few people will have no obvious symptoms at all.

The diagnosis of hypothyroidism includes feeling the thyroid gland for enlargement or shrinkage. Either can be the case. The real diagnosis of hypothyroidism comes from the blood studies. The levels of thyroid hormones T4 and T3 are often low. In the vast majority of cases, the serum level of TSH is elevated in a sort of feedback mechanism. In rare cases of pituitary causes of hypothyroidism, the TSH level is low instead of high. Low TSH levels cannot cause thyroid hormone to be released.

There are dangers to hypothyroidism. Symptoms tend to progress over time and gradually worsen. If the symptoms are severe, it can result in life threatening conditions such as depression, coma or heart failure.

Hypothyroidism is relatively easily treated. Doctors provide the patient with replacement hormone in the form of a one a day T4 tablet. The T4 will metabolize into T3, which is the active form of thyroid hormone. Doctors also measure the TSH level to see if the thyroid replacement is adequate. The normal levels of TSH are 0.5 to 5 but most people feel better if the thyroid stimulating hormone level is below 3.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here