Hypothyroidism is generally the result of an under-active thyroid gland, which is unable to produce the correct level of hormones. Your body’s energy production is dependent upon an adequate hormone supply, so any drop in levels will make you feel as if you lack energy. Some conditions that cause hypothyroidism may include:
- Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own thyroid tissue. Eventually, the tissue dies off and thus ceases hormone production. The exact cause of Hashimoto's thyroiditis is not known, though genetics, (female) gender, excess iodine and radiation have all been linked with the condition.
- Thyroid gland removal: If the thyroid gland has been taken away during a surgical procedure or has been chemically damaged or impaired, then the gland will be unable to produce the hormones your body requires.
- Iodine exposure can also cause hypothyroidism. Some cold and sinus medications, amiodarone heart medication and specific dyes administered prior to X-rays can all result in over-exposure to iodine.
- The drug lithium has also been linked to hypothyroidism, and you may have an increased risk of developing this condition if you have suffered thyroid problems before.
If hypothyroidism is neglected for a substantial period of time, there is a chance of inducing a myxedema coma – a very uncommon though potentially fatal condition that must be immediately addressed via hormone treatment.
Hypothyroidism can create specific risks and problems for infants and newborn babies. Any pronounced thyroid hormone deficiency during a child’s earliest years can result in mental retardation (cretinism) and stunted growth (dwarfism). That is why the majority of newborn children now have a routine check of their thyroid levels very soon after they are born. Should tests prove they are hypothyroid, remedial treatment is then started at once. As with adult sufferers, infant hypothyroidism can be due to:
- a pituitary gland condition
- a defective thyroid gland
- the lack of any functioning thyroid
Hypothyroid infants will seem unusually passive and quiet, have a very poor appetite, and stay asleep for a great deal longer than would generally be expected.