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Underactive Thyroid

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One of the chapters in our police health book is called “… I Thought I Felt Run Down Because Of the Shifts …” and discusses various serious conditions where fatigue is a factor but can be left undiagnosed in officers who think they are just knackered from never-ending shift work. Underactive Thyroid should be of particular interest to ladies between 40 and 50 …

Underactive Thyroid

The thyroid regulates our metabolism and does so by producing a hormone called thyroxine. If it doesn’t produce enough thyroxine – and is therefore ‘underactive’ – then our body is unable to control its metabolism and we suffer various problems with weight, energy and enthusiasm.

The classic cause of an underactive thyroid is where the immune system gets itself all confused again and this time decides it’s doing us a favour by attacking and damaging the thyroid gland reducing its ability to produce thyroxine. Another reason for the condition developing might be because of some medical procedure to the neck such as radiotherapy or surgery, although in this case I would like to think that your doctor would be monitoring you and that the fatigue wouldn’t come as a surprise.

The condition is more common in females in that around 1.5% are affected whereas only 0.1% of males will suffer problems, but doctors suspect that overall numbers for both sexes are under-reported. The classic age for the condition to occur in women is between forty and fifty. The range of symptoms displayed are varied but include:-

  • Tiredness, a feeling of weakness and fatigue.
  • Unexplained weight gain.
  • Depression.
  • A feeling of not being your usual sharp-witted self – slow movements, thought and speech.
  • A change in period patterns or heavy periods.
  • Dryness to skin or scaly skin.
  • An unusual sensitivity to cold.
  • Achiness to the muscles, possible cramps.
  • A loss in sex drive.
  • Constipation.
  • Some hair loss, including – and this is an unusual one – that of the outer eyebrows.
  • Brittle fingernails.
  • Puffy face.
  • Hearing loss.
  • Slow heart rate.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome – pressure on a nerve in the wrist causing tingling or numbness to the hand and fingers – perhaps even pain.
  • A change in voice tone, perhaps becoming low-pitched or hoarse.

Sneakily some of these symptoms will take years to develop, hence a fear amongst medical professionals that many people have the condition without realising it. Treatment is through the daily use of hormone replacement tablets; the downside is that you will need to take them for the rest of your life.

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