What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid gland is underactive and doesn’t produce enough hormone. The thyroid is located at the bottom, in the front of the neck. It gently surrounds the trachea and produces important hormones that regulate metabolism, which in turn, has an effect on all of the body’s organs. The two hormones that are produced by the thyroid gland are T3 and T4. 

Is hypothyroidism an autoimmune disease?

An autoimmune disease, such as Hashimoto’s disease, is one of the causes of hypothyroidism. Autoimmune disease is when a body produces antibodies that attack its own cells. In the case of Hashimoto’s disease, the affected organ is the thyroid, leading to a destruction of thyroid cells. In fact, Hashimoto’s disease leads to about 90% of cases of hypothyroidism.

Can hypothyroidism be cured?

While an inflammation of the thyroid can sometimes lead to transient hyper or hypothyroidism, hypothyroidism cannot be cured with medication.  Fortunately, it is easily treatable with thyroid hormone replacement therapy.  An individual taking replacement hormones can maintain normal levels of T3 and T4.


What are the causes of hypothyroidism?

There are several reasons why a person develops hypothyroidism. Below are a few:

  • Autoimmune disease: Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system attacks its own thyroid cells. Destruction of the cells in the thyroid gland then leads to a deficiency in thyroid hormone secretion, or hypothyroidism. 
  • Treating an overly active thyroid: some people may need to be treated for hyperthyroidism, which is when the thyroid produces too much hormone. Sometimes treating hyperthyroidism can lead to destruction of the thyroid gland or oversuppression which leads to hypothyroidism.
  • Thyroid removal: surgical removal of the thyroid may be required to treat thyroid nodules, or cancer. This may also lead to hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism at birth: although rare, some babies are born without a thyroid, or with a defective thyroid.


What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

Symptoms of hypothyroidism can vary from person to person. Below are some common symptoms of hypothyroidism:

  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Low energy
  • Weight gain
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Thinning hair
  • Depression


How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?

Blood tests are required to diagnose hypothyroidism. Your doctor will check hormone levels, such as TSH, T3, and T4 to make sure they are all within the normal range. In addition to blood tests, your doctor may also ask if you have been experiencing the common symptoms of hypothyroidism.


How is hypothyroidism treated?

Treating hypothyroidism is simple. A daily intake of oral medications, primarily Levothyroxine, can help replenish the low levels of thyroid hormone and treat the symptoms of hypothyroidism. The duration of the treatment is most likely lifelong, however, the dosage can always be adjusted throughout treatment and will require blood work every 6-12 months.


Mayo clinic. (2020, November 19). Hypothyroidism – Symptoms and causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20350284


Medically reviewed by:

Jodi B. Nagelberg, MD, MHA

Dr. Jodi Nagelberg is an endocrinologist, with board certification in Internal Medicine. She also holds a masters in Health Administration and Policy. She joins TeleMed2U as Endocrinology Director and supports our mission to increase access to healthcare for patients everywhere.

Postgraduate: University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy Los Angeles, CA  Masters, Health Administration and Policy, 2011