Underactive Thyroid


Common Symptoms:


Weight gain


Sensitive to cold


Slow movements and thoughts

Muscle Cramps

Muscle Aches and Weakness

Brittle Hair and Nails

Dry and Scaly Skin

Loss of libido

Irregular or heavy periods

Pain, numbness,  tingling in hand and fingers

There may be memory problems and depression in elderly people.  There may be slower growth and development in children and teenagers may start puberty earlier than normal.

Symptoms are often confused for something else and they develop slowly so you may not notice them for years.  You should see your GP if you suffer from any of these symptoms and you should ask to be tested for an underactive thyroid.

Later symptoms may include:

Puffy looking face

Low pitched and hoarse voice

Slow heart rate

Thinned or partly missing eyebrows


Hearing loss

If your underactive thyroid is not treated it can lead to these later symptoms.


Who is Affected?

Both women and men are affected but it is more common in women.  In the UK it affects 15 in every 1000 women and 1 in 1000 men.  Around 1 in every 3500-4000 babies are born with an underactive thyroid and this is called congenital hypothyroidism.  All babies both in the UK are screen for this and this is taken by a heal prick blood test at about 5 days old.

Treating Underactive Thyroid

A daily hormone replacement tablet called levothyroxine is used to raise thyroxine levels.  Treatment is usually for the rest of life.  It is possible to lead a normal healthy life with proper treatment.

If untreated goitre (lump in throat) can occur.  There can also be heart disease, pregnancy problems.  It is also possible to develop life-threatening myxoedema but this is rare.

The Thyroid Gland

It is a small butterfly-shaped gland in the neck which is just in front of the trachea (windpipe).

One of its main functions is producing hormones that help regulate the body’s metabolism which is the process that turns food into energy.  These hormones are called triidothronline (T3) and thyroxine (T4).

Many of the body’s functions slow down when the thyroid does not produce enough thyroxine.

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