Day-to-day working mothers can become a 24-hour sprint. The house, the work, the children… and a country in which the labor conciliation resists arriving, seem to sentence the routine of the Spanish women in their forties: they will end the day exhausted. Hypothyroidism is a decrease in the function of the thyroid gland, which occurs when it is not able to release enough thyroid hormones into the blood. About 10% of women between 40 and 50 years suffer.
This social reality leads many women to accept that feeling “under minimum” is normal, given the burden of tasks they often bear, and that nothing can be done to prevent it. And so resignation ends up masking certain causes that explain fatigue, apathy, muscle weakness, drowsiness and many other symptoms that undoubtedly undermine the quality of life. In the face of these symptoms, it is necessary to rule out the decreased activity of the thyroid gland, a problem known as hypothyroidism that affects women in a special way. “It is five to eight times more frequent in women than in men, and the most vulnerable periods occur after childbirth or menopause,” explains Dr. Jorge Sales, endocrinologist at Nisa Hospital, October 9, Valencia.
The most common type of hypothyroidism is the primary type, that is, that caused by a thyroid gland disease. Within the primary hypothyroidism group, the most common cause is chronic autoimmune thyroiditis, which consists of the slow destruction of the gland by immune system cells. Other causes are thyroidectomy -or removal of the gland as a treatment for another disease -, radioiodine treatment-given in certain types of thyroid cancer -, the use of other drugs – such as amiodarone, lithium, interferon, etc. – and food iodine deficiency.
Secondary or tertiary hypothyroidism, caused by hypophysic or hypothalamic disease, is much less common.
TSH is a hormone secreted in the pituitary gland that regulates the production of the thyroid hormones T4 and T3. These hormones have as their fundamental mission to regulate the metabolic reactions of the organism. When hypothyroidism causes a decrease in thyroid hormones, TSH secretion increases, forcing the thyroid gland to reach a normal level of thyroid hormones.
Fatigue, dry skin, cold intolerance, somnolence, slow reaction and thought, severe voice, facial oedema, slow pulse, hypertension, anemia, cholesterol increase, constipation, menstrual disorders, muscle weakness and certain weight gain are the most common symptoms.
Regarding weight gain, and while it is true that hypothyroidism is characterized by an overall decrease in organic activity affecting, among other functions, the metabolic activity, “unfortunately, thyroid pathology continues to be simplified, associating hypothyroidism with weight gain and hyperthyroidism to the contrary. In hypothyroidism there is a decrease in energy consumption and glucosaminglicans accumulate in the tissues, which make the subject gain a few kilos, but never induce obesity on its own. Once you receive the appropriate treatment, this trend should disappear, and a person’s hypothyroid is not the equivalent of an obese person, nor is it condemned to be obese,” says the specialist of the Hospital Vithas Nisa 9 October.
A pill for life
If hypothyroidism is definitive and not transient, it requires lifelong treatment. It is about administering the thyroid hormone that the body is unable to generate on its own. “There is no natural treatment that is effective, and although it is a medicine -thyroxine-the patient must be reminded that the substance that makes the thyroid is given to him, that is, it is a substitute treatment.”
Thyroxine is given in individual doses for each patient, according to anthropometric characteristics, associated diseases, thyroid hypofunction level, age and evolutionary status. It is given once a day by mouth with water and requires periodic adjustment according to the levels obtained. Specialists stress that people with hypothyroidism do not need to attend to different lifestyles, as “a well-treated hypothyroidic subject can be considered a healthy person.”