Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone.


The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck just below the voice box (larynx). It releases hormones that controlmetabolism.

Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is more common in women and people over age 50.

The most common cause of hypothyroidism is thyroiditis. Swelling and inflammation damage the thyroid gland's cells. Causes of this problem include:

  • An attack of the thyroid gland by the immune system

  • Cold or other respiratory infection

  • Pregnancy (often called "postpartum thyroiditis")


Other causes of hypothyroidism include:

  • Certain drugs, such as lithium and amiodarone

  • Congenital (birth) defects

  • Radiation treatments to the neck or brain to treat different cancers

  • Radioactive iodine used to treat an overactive thyroid gland

  • Surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid gland

  • Sheehan syndrome, a condition that may occur in a woman who bleeds severely during pregnancy or childbirth and causes the destruction of the pituitary gland





Early symptoms:



Late symptoms, if left untreated:



  • Decreased taste and smell

  • Hoarseness

  • Puffy face, hands, and feet

  • Slow speech

  • Thickening of the skin

  • Thinning of eyebrows




Exams and Tests

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:



  • Brittle nails

  • Coarse features of the face

  • Pale or dry skin, which may be cool to the touch

  • Swelling of the arms and legs

  • Thin and brittle hair


Lab tests to determine thyroid function include:



Other tests that may be done:




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