HypothyroidismEn Español (Spanish Version)More InDepth Information on This Condition
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that control metabolism. Hypothyroidism happens when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. The most common form of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
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Hashimoto's thyroiditis occurs when the
immune system produces antibodies that attack cells of the thyroid gland. This causes thyroid swelling and loss of function.
Other causes include:
- Idiopathic thyroid atrophy—destruction of thyroid tissue for unknown reasons
- Iodine deficiency—when a thyroid gland needs iodine to produce thyroid hormone (rare in the United States)
- Subacute thyroiditis—following a viral upper respiratory tract infection
to the head and neck or surgical removal of the thyroid gland (called subtotal
Medicines (such as
Certain diseases (such as
- Pituitary adenoma
—benign tumor of the pituitary gland
Risk factors that can increase your chance of developing hypothyroidism include:
- Age: over 65 years old
- Sex: more common in females
- Ethnicity: Caucasian, Hispanic
- History of family members with hypothyroidism
History of other autoimmune diseases:
Years may pass before you notice symptoms.
Symptoms of severe or long-term cases include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical and family history. A physical exam will be done. To confirm the diagnosis,
will be done, which include:
- Thyroid stimulating hormone
- Free T4 and total T3
- Antibodies that attack the thyroid gland
There is no specific treatment in the early stages of Hashimoto's thyroiditis. But, in most cases, you will end up developing hypothyroidism. Treatment involves taking
medicine to replace the thyroid hormones (such as
There are no known ways of preventing hypothyroidism.
The American Thyroid Association
Canadian Institute for Health
Thyroid Foundation of Canada
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. AACE medical guidelines for clinical practice for the evaluation and treatment of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.
Escobar-Morreale HF, Botella-Carretero JI, Escobar del Rey F, et al. Treatment of hypothyroidism with combinations of levothyroxine plus liothyronine.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab
Hypothyroidism. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
. Updated November 19, 2012. Accessed November 20, 2012.
Roberts CG, Ladenson PW. Hypothyroidism.
Surks MI, Ortiz E, Daniels GH, et al. Subclinical thyroid disease: scientific review and guidelines for diagnosis and management
Last Reviewed March 2013