Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone. Without enough thyroid hormone, the body becomes tired and run down. Every organ system slows, including the brain, which affects concentration; the gut, causing constipation; and metabolism – the rate at which the body burns energy – resulting in weight gain. Although there are many different causes of hypothyroidism, the resulting effect on the body is the same.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto's thyroiditis, a disease in which the body's immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Failure of the pituitary gland to secrete a hormone to stimulate the thyroid gland, called secondary hypothyroidism, is a less common cause of hypothyroidism. Other causes include congenital defects, surgical removal of the thyroid gland, irradiation of the gland and inflammatory conditions.
The condition is more common in women and people over the age of 50. Other risk factors include thyroid surgery and exposure of the neck to X-ray or radiation treatments.
Our Approach to Hypothyroidism
UCSF offers comprehensive consultations and care for thyroid conditions, including hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). For this condition, we prescribe thyroid hormone and adjust the dose until normal levels are reached. With proper treatment, patients with hypothyroidism can eliminate symptoms.
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UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.