December 10, 2018 | by Wei Hao MD, PhD

Hypothyroidism is a condition caused by the thyroid’s inability to produce enough thyroid hormones, which causes the metabolism to slow. The thyroid is a small gland located under the Adam’s apple that controls the body’s metabolism by producing thyroid hormones called T4 and T3. Thyroid hormones tell the body how much energy to use and act on almost all organs and tissues. They help to control body temperate, maintain the rate fats and carbohydrates are used, influence heart rate, and regulate the production of protein. Hypothyroidism can occur in people of all ages, sexes, and ethnicities but it is especially common in women over the age of 60.

What causes Hypothyroidism?

The most common cause of hypothyroidism is autoimmune thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues—in this case, the thyroid gland—which results in lower production of thyroid hormones. Hashimoto’s disease is often hereditary, like other autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, Addison’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. Some other causes of hypothyroidism include:

  • Congenital disease

  • Pituitary disorder

  • Pregnancy

  • Iodine deficiency

What are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?

The symptoms of hypothyroidism tend to develop slowly over the course of years and can vary greatly depending on the severity of the hormone deficiency. Many people hardly notice the symptoms when they begin because they are so gradual and are often attributed to getting older. However as the metabolism continues to slow they may become more obvious. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Fatigue

  • Constipation

  • Weight gain

  • Intolerance to cold

  • Heavy or irregular menstrual periods

  • Dry skin or hair

  • Impaired memory

  • Elevated blood cholesterol level

If you notice you’re displaying symptoms of hypothyroidism, see your primary care doctor. Hypothyroidism is not curable but can be treated with a doctor’s help. The Polyclinic endocrinology department provides care for thyroid problems and other hormonal and metabolic disorders. For more information about scheduling an appointment with a Polyclinic endocrinologist, call 206-860-5572.


Written By: Wei Hao MD, PhD