A disease of the thyroid gland (underactive) that effects mostly females: symptoms include slow metabolism, dry skin, sleepiness, dry hair. It can be hereditary. It may be caused by your body attacking your thyroid (Hashimoto disease), or it may be inexplicable.

I finally went to the doctor and was diagnosed with it after a semester of truly excessive naps & other strange sleepiness. They subscribed synthroid, but as i didn't notice any changes after a couple of months (and I resented having to take drugs to be "normal"), I haven't taken it since.

I am now used to being sleepy. I hide it well.

When I started university, I began to take naps. It was probably because I stayed up till all hours of the night doing homework at the last minute, a fact my grandmother chose to ignore.

At the time, I was living with my granparents (they live about 30 minutes away from the university by foot). Hypothyroidism runs in my family. My grandmother jumped to the conclusion that because I took naps, I must have hypothyroidism. C'mon! Just because my grandmother, two aunts, my mother, and a cousin have it doesn't necessarily mean I do! (Well, I know, that looks bad... But I'm still convinced that I don't have it).

Anyways, I finally gave in to my entire family and went to get a blood test. What a miserable experience! The nurse was awful... I couldn't move my arm when I got out, it hurt so much. I don't think she even bothered to look for a vein, she just jammed the needle in a wiggled it around till I started to bleed. (Can you see why I'm reluctant to be re-tested?) Good thing my SO drove me other there -- I never could have driven back by myself.

In any case, the tests turned out "normal." To the doctors, I didn't have hypothyroidism, and that was fine with me. I've learned to control my sleepiness by regulating my sleep patterns (and caffeine!). The other problems (dry skin, slow metabolism) are annoying sometimes, but I can live with it. There are much worse diseases you could have.

hypothyroidism: deficiency of thyroid hormone; the opposite of hyperthyroidism. The thyroid gland is in the throat, near the larynx or Adam's apple.

Dictionary of Sexology Project: Main Index

One of the major reasons our bodies have a Thyroid Gland is to produce hormones which will regulate the body's metabolism. If that gland does not produce enough, produces too much, or the hormone production becomes erratic, then Thryoid problems will ensue. The two major disorders are Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism.

In hypothyroidism the gland does not produce sufficient hormone to regulate metabolism. This can be caused by Hashimotos thyroiditis (autoimmune thyroiditis), any number of medical procedures which can damage the cells within the thyroid, or problems within the patients pituitary gland.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include:

fatigue
weakness
weight gain or extreme difficulty in losing/controlling weight
coarse, brittle, or dry hair
dry, rough, pale skin
sensitivity to cold
muscle cramping and unexplained aches
constipation
depression
irritability
memory loss
abnormal menstrual cycles
decreased libido

Not all patients will suffer from all the symptoms. Any combination of the above symptoms should be discussed with a medical professional.

Very often it is the fatigue and depression that a patient will notice. It may require several doctor visits, and a psycological evaluation, to convince the doctors that the problem is physical and not emotional in nature. It is not uncommon for hypothyroidism to be untreated and a patient diagnosed with clinical depression.

Testing for hypothyroidism is a matter of a simple blood test. It is necessary for ALL thyroid hormone levels to be checked. This includes the TSH hormone (which is produced by the pituitary gland to stimulate thyroid homone production) and the T4 (which is the actual thyroid hormone itself). Many doctors will only test the T4, and prescribe synthetic hormone replacement accordingly. If a TSH level is also low, in conjunction with the T4, there is an indication that the pituitary gland is also damaged and further medical investigation should follow (a visit to an endocrinologist).

While more prevelant among women between 25 and 40 years of age, hypothyroidism does not discriminate in any fashion. It can strike male or female of any age. It is very much as disorder that can be lived with. Daily medication will allow a hypothyroid patient to lead a normal, active life. It is necessary to have hormone levels checked periodically and medications adjusted accordingly. The potential dangers of hypothyroid are minimal, and most relate to either misdiagnosis or lack of treatment. As with any medical condition, once diagnosed, the advice of a professional should be followed.

The information that I have written here is based solely on my own experience with having been diagnosed hypothyroid 8 years ago. I have researched and gathered information from my physicians, medical documentation, and personal experience.

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism about six months ago after over three years of symptoms: weight gain, constant tiredness, lack of focus and concentration. Being not totally ignorant of human diseases, I wondered if my thyroid had gone south on me, but the first general practitioner I visited -- the type who pops in for two minutes, long enough to say "Hihowyadoing?" and write a prescription -- had his nurse take a blood sample and later cheerfully told me that my test results were perfectly normal and that I was likely "just depressed" and did I want to go on Zoloft?

I spent most of my early 20s wrestling with depression. I know damn well what sinking into that pit feels like, and knew it wasn't the problem. So I declined, and went looking for another doctor. The doctor I found -- our current doctor -- spent a whole hour talking with me about my symptoms and taking notes. She believed me when I told her I wasn't "just" depressed, and took more blood.

This time, I got my test results in the mail with a handwritten note from my doctor that I did indeed have a sluggish thyroid.

She subsequently put me on Synthroid. We haven't worked out a truly effective dosage yet -- after the first couple of weeks of "Holy shit, I feel alive again!" I've felt less good (though better than before), but in regard to hormone levels, the initial dose of 25 micrograms wasn't doing much. She put me on 50, and that doesn't seem much different so far -- so I get to keep going back for more bloodwork until my hormone levels look normal.

The thing about thyroid testing is that it's fiddly, and the results have to be seen by a knowledgeable eye. A nurse I know has speculated that the first doctor might not have even bothered getting my sample tested because he'd already decided I was depressed. Another possibility is that I spent several years being "sub-clinical": I was having symptoms, my levels were low, but still "normal" according to some diagnostics.

So, the take-home message is this: if you suspect you might have hypothyroidism, be persistent. See a real endocrinologist if you can rather than a general practitioner. Get tested in another six months (or a year, if that's what you can afford -- right now the bloodwork runs a little over $100 and as with anything medical is more likely to rise rather than become more affordable). Hormone levels change.

If left untreated, hypothyroidism can ultimately cause some fairly serious heart problems.

Everyone is affected somewhat differently, but the common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

Doctors insist that the decrease in metabolism isn't enough to account for much weight gain in most people. However, with hypothyroidism I feel you're likely to gain weight simply because you're too damn tired to exercise and you crave a lot of carbohydrates to try to give yourself some cheap energy. Before I was properly diagnosed, I mostly felt like lying down someplace.

Physically, I constantly felt the way I do after a long day, and mentally felt like I'd just woken up. I am not a morning person; I feel pretty groggy for the first half-hour or so. I was like that all blessed day: groggy and bone-tired.

There are certainly many far worse diseases, but speaking as a geek, this one nontrivially hurt my life because it killed my memory and concentration. I gradually lost the ability to read for more than 20 minutes at a time, and I had trouble retaining what I'd just read. Study for my A+ certification? Go back to college? Even just get through all the stories for a writers' workshop meeting? I just couldn't do it.

It was as if this disease aged me 15 years and cost me 30 IQ points.

Hypothyroidism is more common in women, and in people with prematurely gray hair.

If you're a woman, and the hypothyroidism didn't affect your menstrual cycle, be aware that your thyroid medication probably will, at least initially. More to the point, it might make your periods late, possibly weeks late.

If you go on Synthroid, it's best to take your pill first thing in the morning before you've eaten, and you'll have to wait an hour until you have breakfast. Calcium supplements, soy, and walnuts don't play well with Synthroid, so avoid soy shakes and Tums tablets until much later in the day.

Exercise does play well with Synthroid, though, and if you get active you'll feel much better than if you take your pills but stay sedentary.

They don't really know yet what causes most garden-variety cases of hypothyroidism like mine. Yes, your thyroid stops working -- but why? My husband also has hypothyroidism, and was being treated for it long before I started showing symptoms. So, I suspect a virus, probably one that some people are more vulnerable to genetically. It'll probably be a while before anyone comes up with any research results to prove me right or wrong.

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