Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland, located in the neck, does not make enough thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormones control a person’s metabolism, which can affect many parts of the body.
The most common cause is inflammation of the thyroid gland and damages the gland’s cells. Autoimmune or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common example in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Some women develop hypothyroidism after pregnancy (referred to as “postpartum thyroiditis).
Radiation treatments for cancers of the neck may also damage the thyroid as well as surgical procedures to remove all or part of the thyroid gland, often preformed to prevent other thyroid problems are also a known cause. Certain drugs and other medical conditions have been associated with hypothyroidism.
You are most at risk for the condition is you are female and or over the age of 50 and there is no known way to prevent it. Lifelong replacement therapy is required unless you have a condition called transient viral thyroiditis. In most cases, thyroid levels return to normal with proper treatment.
There are some rare but serious complications that are associated with severe cases of hypothyroidism. If you have this condition, it is important to work with to your healthcare provider.