Common ailments

Underactive Thyroid – Hypothyroidism

I am a 51 year old male and over the past 8 months I’ve been feeling generally unwell. I seem to feel tired all the time and have aching limbs. I’ve also been suffering with constipation and have gained a lot of weight even though I haven’t changed my diet. Information on the internet suggests I might have an underactive thyroid. Is this not something that only affects women?

The thyroid is a gland located in your neck, in front of your windpipe. An underactive thyroid (or hypothyroidism) is a common condition which means that your thyroid gland isn’t producing enough thyroid hormones for your body’s needs. This slows down your metabolism, leading to symptoms such as extreme tiredness, weight gain and weak muscles. Although an underactive thyroid is more common in older people and in women, men can certainly also be affected, as can babies and children.

In most cases, an underactive thyroid is caused by the immune system attacking the thyroid or by damage caused to the thyroid during some treatments for thyroid cancer and an overactive thyroid.

In addition to the symptoms you describe, other symptoms of hypothyroidism include being sensitive to the cold, dry skin and hair, and depression. However, these are all symptoms that develop gradually and can be caused by other conditions. It is important therefore that you visit your GP for a proper diagnosis. Your GP will be able to carry out a simple blood test to measure your hormone levels and establish whether you do in fact have an underactive thyroid.

Treatment for an underactive thyroid usually involves taking daily hormone replacement tablets to raise your levels of thyroxine. You will need to continue with the treatment for the rest of your life but it is an easy and usually effective treatment which should allow you to then lead a normal, healthy life.

Left untreated, an underactive thyroid can lead to complications, including heart disease, so it is vital that you visit your GP so the correct diagnosis can be made.

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