Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland, is quite common and occurs in up to 10 percent of female patients. The thyroid gland is unable to produce enough thyroid hormone for the body's needs, and the resulting decreased metabolism symptoms such as fatigue, muscle weakness, cold intolerance, dry or rough skin, depressed mood, weight gain, abnormal menstrual cycles, constipation and an overall decreased level of energy.
Hypothyroidism is diagnosed by a simple blood test that checks the level of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) produced by the pituitary gland. TSH acts as an on/off switch for the thyroid gland. In patients with hypothyroidism, the levels of TSH will be higher than normal, because the pituitary gland is attempting to correct the problem of not having enough thyroid hormone.
Hypothyroidism is treated by prescribing a thyroid hormone replacement, which is available in a synthetic form called levothyroxine (T4) or with a combination of synthetic T4 and T3. Thyroid hormone extracts, which are obtained from animal thyroid glands and are also available. Once a patient receives treatment, our physicians meet with the patient to monitor for adequate thyroid hormone replacement, to regularly check the TSH level in the blood, and to adjust the patient's dose accordingly.