Signs and Symptoms
Hypothyroidism is a condition of an underactive thyroid, in which the thyroid gland cannot produce the necessary amount of hormones to regulate the functioning of the endocrine system. It is important to mention that if treated in an untimely manner, the underactive thyroid can cause such issues as obesity, infertility, and other dangerous conditions. Common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism include regular fatigue, weight gain, and muscle aches/weakness, high cholesterol levels, impaired memory and hair loss, slower heart rate, constipation, and sometimes even depression (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2017). The severity of the mentioned symptoms can increase when the condition is untreated or undiagnosed.
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Screening and Diagnostic Tests
Screening and testing procedures targeted at the identification of hypothyroidism predominantly include blood tests that reveal the concentration of important hormones produced by the thyroid gland. Thyroxine and TSH are hormones that show whether a patient’s thyroid is underactive: when a blood test shows low concentrations of thyroxine and high concentrations of TSH, the thyroid is considered underactive. Also, a complete blood test can reveal several contributing factors to hypothyroidism such as anemia, reverse creatinine increases, and dilutional hyponatremia (Orlander, 2017).
It is essential to mention that screening and recommended diagnosing tests for hypothyroidism are usually aligned with patients’ needs, which means that there is no universal approach. For instance, individuals who have inherited hypothyroidism but rarely experience fluctuations in hormone levels and do not exhibit too many physical symptoms of the condition are recommended to take blood tests once every six months. However, those patients whose hormone levels are sustained through hormonal treatment take blood tests more frequently to determine whether any changes in dosage are necessary.
Pharmacological and Non-Pharmacological Treatment
Current treatment plans for both pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic management of hypothyroidism are developed on a case-specific basis, which means that there is no universal approach. However, levothyroxine remains the most common treatment for the condition, with the dosage being regulated through monitoring of hormone levels through blood tests. Clinical benefits of levothyroxine treatment can begin between three and five days after the medicine’s administration, with hormone levels normalizing within four to six weeks. Until the patient’s TSH level is at the desired range, the prescription’s dosage can change every six to eight weeks (Orlander, 2017).
Despite the fact that pharmacological treatment is essential when hypothyroidism is diagnosed, there are several non-pharmacological recommendations that can contribute to the improvement of the diagnosed condition. The key recommendation is sustaining a healthy diet that includes a balanced selection of nutritious foods; importantly, patients with hypothyroidism should consider having seafood on a regular basis to ensure a healthy intake of omega-3 fatty acids and iodine. Supplements that have been recommended by a doctor can also improve the chances of getting hypothyroidism under control.
For instance, taking spirulina and selenium can be beneficial for their antioxidant properties. It is essential to note that taking too many supplements can be harmful to the thyroid, which means that patients should seek the advice of their doctors before taking any additional medicine. Lastly, relaxation and mild physical activities such as yoga are recommended to patients with hypothyroidism to improve the flow of blood in the body. Acupuncture is another complementary treatment that can help the body respond to the administered medication while also improving the state of the immune system, which is essential in the case of hypothyroidism.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Web.
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Orlander, P. (2017). Hypothyroidism. Web.