An underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism is known to mean that too few hormones are produced in the thyroid gland. It is also known that all hormones for metabolic processes are formed in the thyroid gland and are therefore vital. If the production of hormones falls, the human performance decreases rapidly.


What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a global disease. Nevertheless, many unaffected people are unaware of the importance of the thyroid gland. The thyroid is a vital organ that sits below the larynx and takes control of the entire human metabolism. This happens through the formation of the two thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine. The appearance of the thyroid resembles a butterfly in that it has right and left lobes that join together in the middle. Their weight in adults is between 20 and 60 grams. See bittranslators for About Coughing.

In the case of an underactive thyroid gland, also known as hypothyroidism, the thyroid produces too few or no hormones at all. The lack of thyroid hormones in the human body slows down all metabolic processes and reduces performance. Hypothyroidism in children is particularly dangerous, as it can delay physical and mental development, because the thyroid hormones are already responsible for the development and maturation of the body, especially the brain, in the embryo.

To produce the hormones, the thyroid needs iodine (iodine), which is ingested through food. In adults, the thyroid controls metabolism, heart rate and body temperature, among other things.


There are different causes for an underactive thyroid. It can be congenital or, more likely, triggered by a disorder in the thyroid tissue.

Hypothyroidism is therefore first differentiated into congenital and acquired hypothyroidism. There are two forms of acquired hypothyroidism: hypothyroidism, which is caused by misuse of iodine or too little iodine, or hypothyroidism, which is caused by a lack of thyroid tissue due to illness, radiotherapy or surgery.

Despite the different forms and causes, the symptoms of hypothyroidism are the same: those affected are often tired, lack energy and depressed. Loss of appetite, lack of thirst and weight gain are also consequences of hypothyroidism.

Dry and brittle skin and brittle hair can also be signs of this disease. Due to the slowed metabolism, the pulse also slows down and the body temperature drops, which increases sensitivity to cold.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

A lack of thyroid hormones affects various organs and can therefore lead to a wide variety of symptoms. These can be physical and psychological. The most common signs of an underactive thyroid include tiredness with an increased desire to sleep, listlessness and listlessness. The restriction in performance can also manifest itself as poor concentration, poor memory or slowing of the reflexes.

In older people, these signs are often recognized very late as evidence of hypothyroidism. Depressive moods and increased disinterest can also occur. Coldness (sensitivity to cold) and pale skin can also be indications of hypothyroidism. The disorder can also lead to weight gain, increased levels of LDL in the blood, pain and muscle weakness.

Since the body only “runs on the back burner” due to the hypothyroidism, hair and fingernails become brittle. Skin problems can arise. There may be swelling of the subcutaneous connective tissue, particularly on the eyelids. Voice and language can also be affected.

Hypothyroidism can lead to a reduction in sexual desire and male potency. Constipation and loss of appetite are also signs of a slowed metabolism due to an underactive thyroid. Circulatory disorders can also occur as symptoms. Long-term untreated hypothyroidism can cause the heart rate to slow down. Heart muscle weakness can also occur.

Course of the disease

If an underactive thyroid gland is not treated or diagnosed too late in small children, the lack of hormones can result in mental and physical disabilities. In adults, the organs in particular are impaired in their functionality. Conspicuous symptoms are sensitivity to cold, dry skin, weight gain, slow heart rate and lack of drive.


Congenital hypothyroidism, which is not treated, leads to considerable complications, even in infancy. The diagnosis is valid within the embryonic development as a special form of the incorrectly developed thyroid gland. The reason for this could be attributed to a lack of iodine deficiency in the mother.

If the expectant mother fails to take the medical advice during pregnancy and the legally required newborn screening, she risks the life and the healthy development of the child. Congenital hypothyroidism can affect 1 in 3,000 newborns. Early diagnosis avoids complications such as numerous developmental deficits that make the child need nursing care.

Malformation of the thyroid impairs mental maturity, overall body growth, psychomotor skills and bone formation. Hearing and breathing are also severely impaired.

If targeted medication is taken within 14 days after birth, many of the physical and mental consequential damages can be avoided. Irreversible deficits can be bypassed. If the mother refuses any medical help, the condition of the small child can deteriorate to such an extent that a myxedema coma is threatened as a result of the hypothyroidism.

With the latter, accumulations of water form under the child’s skin and cause it to swell, especially in the area of ​​the limbs and face. If this life-threatening complication is not treated immediately, the child can succumb to myxedema.

When should you go to the doctor?

If certain symptoms persist for a longer period of time, a doctor should be consulted in any case. It is important that the general practitioner rules out other diagnoses in order to treat the condition professionally. If feelings of weakness or large weight gains are noticed without reason, the suspicion of an underactive thyroid gland is obvious.

The doctor who specializes in this hormonal disease is the endocrinologist. The endocrinologist should only be consulted if the family doctor believes that the thyroid gland needs a thorough evaluation. If the thyroid value is only moderately low in a normal blood test, it is not necessary to see a specialist. However, if values ​​are in a very critically low range, an examination by an endocrinologist becomes inevitable. A specialist should also be consulted for other critical values. However, this only applies to values ​​that are well below the norm.

Treatment & Therapy

Hypothyroidism should be treated as early as possible. The treatment is usually drug-based by administering artificial thyroxine. This is best suited to support the thyroid gland in its work, as it is not broken down by the body as quickly. So far, it has not been possible to cure the actual causes of hypothyroidism; medication can only effectively reduce the effects.

In therapy, it is therefore essential to first identify the disease by taking a blood sample. After that, therapy is usually influenced by drugs that act as hormone replacements. If the dosage is set correctly and the patient sticks to the intake, the performance can return to a normal state. Thus, there is no danger to life for the patient.

The therapy begins with a low hormone dosage, which is gradually increased until the desired effect is achieved. The medication must be taken in the morning on an empty stomach. The metabolism should be checked annually by taking a blood sample. With the right treatment, those affected can usually lead a completely normal life, and their performance and life expectancy are not restricted by the hypothyroidism. The most common side effect of this hormone therapy is weight gain.


An underactive thyroid cannot be prevented directly. If an underactive thyroid gland has already occurred, lifelong hormone treatment is necessary. As a rule, it is not possible to prevent hypothyroidism properly, since the causes can be quite different and are usually not influenced by external factors.

Lifelong hormonal treatment helps fight the symptoms of this disease. If the hypofunction of the guilt glands was only caused by an iodine deficiency, the consistent use of iodised table salt can improve the iodine supply. Since sea fish in particular contains a lot of iodine, this sea fish should be on the menu twice a week. The additional intake of iodine preparations can also contribute to covering the daily iodine requirement.


Hypothyroidism requires a lot of patience and lifelong treatment from those affected. The severity of the disease – and a possible operation – determines the frequency of the controls. The long-term goal is to stabilize the body’s metabolic and hormonal balance in the normal range and to avoid (repeated) growth of the thyroid gland.

In most cases, an annual blood test and a regular ultrasound scan of the neck region are sufficient. Directly after thyroid surgery, it is recommended to have more frequent check-ups until the hormone values ​​have normalized. The long-term intake of the thyroid hormone thyroxine T4, which the thyroid gland produces little or no longer, is usually prescribed.

The more thyroid tissue removed during surgery, the higher the dosage prescribed will be. In some cases it makes sense to take additional iodine tablets. Any fluctuations in hormone levels in the body are detected in good time by regular blood tests.

A corresponding individual dosage of thyroxin counteracts these fluctuations and enables a largely normal life for those affected. If the values ​​are in the ideal range after an operation, it is not necessary to take thyroxine. Nevertheless, this does not replace the regular check-ups to the doctor.

You can do that yourself

If you have an underactive thyroid, you need medical treatment. At the same time, the diet has to be changed. Patients should eat a healthy and balanced diet. Instead of processed foods, home-cooked meals made from fresh ingredients are best consumed. The food should primarily contain zinc and selenium. Both substances can be supplied via dietary supplements if the diet does not cover the daily requirement. Legumes, dairy products, meat and fish are also good choices.

In addition, the vitamins B12, A, E and D should be consumed in sufficient quantities. Patients should maintain a regular sleep schedule. A good sleep rhythm contributes to a balanced immune system and thus to a stable thyroid gland. The rule of thumb is eight hours of sleep, which should be combined with a consistent routine.

In addition, regular exercise is important. Sport and an active lifestyle alleviate the physical and psychological symptoms associated with an underactive thyroid. Regular breaks are just as important so that the body has enough time to recover. Rest periods are essential, especially after stressful phases. Medical check-ups should continue. In addition, the doctor must be informed of any complaints and symptoms.