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Complications From an Underactive Thyroid

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Hypothyroidism related image Photo: Getty Images

Normally, the thyroid produces two thyroid hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triioxothyronine (T3). These hormones are involved in several different functions of the body, including metabolism. Different conditions can cause the thyroid gland to not produce enough of these hormones; this condition is called hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid. Patients with an underactive thyroid can have several different symptoms, which vary due to the severity of the thyroid hormone deficiency.

Getting treatment for an underactive thyroid is important, as several complications from an untreated underactive thyroid are possible. Some of the complications are emergency conditions, such as myxedema coma and suppurative thyroiditis.

MedlinePlus noted that myxedema coma is the most severe type of hypothyroidism. Patients can develop myxedema coma if they have untreated hypothyroidism and are exposed to the cold or if they have an infection or illness.

Certain medications, such as lithium, sedatives and amiodarone, may also cause myxedema coma in patients with an untreated underactive thyroid. Symptoms include a slow heart rate, delirium, urine retention, constipation, seizures and fluid build-up.

Other symptoms include low blood sugar, low blood pressure, decreased breathing, a below normal temperature, stupor and coma. Myxedema coma is rare, but life-threatening. Of all cases, 30 to 60 percent of patients die, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Suppurative thyroiditis, an infection of the thyroid gland, is also a rare and life-threatening complication of hypothyroidism. The condition usually begins with an upper respiratory infection.

Patients may have trouble speaking and swallowing, fever, rash and neck pain. The University of Maryland Medical Center noted that people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may have a higher risk.

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Wow, I've read a lot of articles about Hashimotos Hypothroiditis, which I have, and never have I found this much information detailing the significant complications related to not treating your thyroid deficiency. I knew coma was a posibility, but others listed such as peripheral nueropathy, and suppurative thyroiditis, were no where on my radar. Due to insurance gaps between jobs, I was recently out of medication for about 4 months. I felt horrible, and expected as much, but I no idea it could do that much damage. Thank you SOOO much for the information provided here. It really has changed my prospective on my condition, and how I care for it!

March 20, 2012 - 9:18pm

Thank you for this great little article! I have tried to tell people that there can be implications of untreated hypothyroidism, but there have been many (mostly husbands) that refuse to accept the truth.

Many people think that hypothyroid patients are simply lying to themselves, and no matter how bad it gets it really isn't "that bad". Yet I have spoken with at least a few who have actually been hospitalized for it!

Once I finally got regulated a bit, my cholesterol dropped from 268 down to 172. Now that shows you there is something to this!

Anyway, thanks for the article, it is great to share with others that untreated hypothyroidism indeed can be dangerous.

Take Care,


January 7, 2012 - 3:08pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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