Hypothyroidism – An underrated disease
Every third adult suffers from a thyroid dysfunction. Still, the impact the thyroid has on our health is underestimated. A malfunction can seriously affect many important bodily functions. We’ll tell you what the thyroid gland does, which symptoms indicate a hypothyroidism and which markers are critical for diagnosis.
What exactly does the thyroid gland do?
The butterfly-shaped organ is the largest pure hormone gland of the body. It produces hormones that affect almost all important functions of our body. Therefore it not only affects the metabolism and the cardiovascular system, but also our digestive system, our mental wellbeing and our fertility. In unborn babies and toddlers it contributes significantly to the mental development.
The thyroid gland produces and stores the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). The hormone production is controlled by two areas of the brain, the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. The thyroid hormones act in almost all body cells. That’s why they are so essential to our health and well-being.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism
The diagnosis of a hypothyroidism is often difficult, as the symptoms are usually very nonspecific. In addition, they vary a lot with every patient. Infants and children show different symptoms than adults. For older people, in turn, symptoms are often erroneously explained as age-related or early on dementia and are not further pursued. All this leads to a late (or never happening) diagnosis.
Typical symptoms of a hypothyroidism are:
- weigth gain
- depressive moods
- low energy, fatigue
- change in heart rate
- hair loss
- feeling too cold
- irregular menstrual periods
How can a hypothyroidism be detected?
If it is suspected that the symptoms are caused by a hypothyroidism, the next step is to find the right test.
With the Verisana thyroid test, you can easily determine your values and see whether you suffer from hyperthyroidism or hypofthyroidism.
You collect the samples at home, send them back to us and we will send you your result with information on the respective markers.
»» Click here for more information on the Verisana Thyroid Test (link will open in a new window)
Diagnosis of a hypothyroidism
Using a blood sample, the thyroid levels can be determined easily. Unfortunately, many doctors only analyze a single value (TSH), instead of all 4 thyroid markers:
Free T3 is a hormone secreted by the thyroid gland that regulates several metabolic activities throughout the body. Almost all the T3 circulates tightly bound to protein. Only a small fraction is unbound and biologically active (fT3). If the thyroid gland produces excessive amounts of T3, symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism, such as anxiety, weight loss, and insomnia may occur. Decreased fT3 levels can cause slower heart rate, constipation, and potentially weight gain. Abnormally low levels could indicate long-term illness, starvation or hypothyroidism.
Free T4 is the predominant hormone produced by the thyroid gland. It appears to function as a pro-hormone for the more biologically active form T3. Only free thyroxine (fT4), that comprises a small fraction of total thyroxine, can be converted to T3. Elevations in fT4 may indicate too much iodine, hyperthyroidism or other thyroid problems, such as thyroiditis a thyroid nodule or a multinodular goiter. Low levels of fT4 may be caused by dietary issues, such as malnutrition or iodine deficiency. Strongly decreased values indicate hypothyroidism due to thyroid disease or pituitary gland disorders.
TSH is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland in the brain that controls thyroid hormone production. To maintain stable amounts of thyroid hormones, the pituitary gland produces less TSH,when fT4 and fT3 levels increase, and more TSH, when fT4 and fT3 levels decrease. Therefore, TSH is often considered the most important indicator for thyroid conditions. But especially for more complex diseases like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or hypothyroidism due to a malfunction of the pituitary gland, the TSH value alone is not sufficient.
TPO is an enzyme involved in thyroid hormone synthesis. The determination of aTPO levels is the gold standard for detecting autoimmune thyroid disorders. Elevated aTPO levels are considered evidence of inflammation of the thyroid gland and often associated with autoimmune disorders, such as Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
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