What is Hypothyroidism?

Although highly treatable, thyroid disorders are usually underdiagnosed because the symptoms can mimic other conditions. In Singapore, thyroid disorders are most common among adult males and females between ages 20 and 50. Hypothyroidism can be difficult to detect without proper diagnosis because the symptoms and their severity will vary and develop slowly over the years.


The thyroid gland is responsible for regulating several metabolic processes int eh body through the production of hormones. If there is an imbalance of the hormones, the chemical reactions that take place are also affected. Hypo means that the thyroid gland is underactive and is not producing enough hormones. This is opposite of the other condition called hyperthyroidism where the thyroid is overactive.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Sometimes the degree of the hormone deficiency determines the severity of the symptoms, which is why some people can go for years without a proper assessment from a doctor. Ove the years, however, complications can develop from hypothyroidism and that is when the problems emerge.

Usually the first signs are fatigue and weight gain, but slowly your body will show some of the following signs, too: constipation, high blood cholesterol levels, slow heart rate, sensitivity to cold, dry skin, hoarseness, muscle weakness, muscle pains and stiffness, joint swelling and pains, puffy face, thinning hair, depression, bad memory, and irregular menstrual periods for women.

Sometimes, the thyroid enlarges (called goiter) because of the pressure to release more hormones. There is also an advanced stage of hypothyroidism called myxedema which causes low blood pressure and a decrease in body temperate and breathing. Babies can also show signs of hypothyroidism, so parents should watch out for the following: puffy face, jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes, protruding tongue, constipation, excessive sleepiness, and frequent instances of choking.

Complications and Treatments

Hypothyroidism is caused by several factors such as an autoimmune disease, congenital disease, pituitary disorder, and iodine deficiency. But it can also be triggered by medications, thyroid diseases, radiation treatment, and postpartum hypothyroidism.

If left untreated, hypothyroidism can cause several complications such as cardiovascular diseases, enlarged heart, high cholesterol levels, goiter, peripheral neuropathy or damage to the peripheral nerves in the arms and legs, infertility, slowed mental functioning, depression, and birth defects if a pregnant woman has not undergone treatment previously.

Children with hypothyroidism will experience delayed puberty, poor mental development, poor growth, and delayed development of teeth. In extreme cases, myxedema can lead to a coma. Fortunately, there are ways to diagnose and treat hypothyroidism. Blood tests, T4 tests, and TSH or thyroid-stimulating hormone test are administered.

Treatment can alleviate most of the symptoms and prevent complications. This is done through thyroxine or T4 replacement to bring hormones back to normal levels. The hormone is a synthetic replacement in the form of a pill that must be taken daily. Regular blood tests can monitor hormone levels, but you should also be careful about your diet and which medications and supplements you can take.