Q: What is hypothyroidism?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid fails to produce enough thyroxine (T4), or the pituitary gland produces inadequate levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Hypothyroidism is characterized by excessive weight gain, constant fatigue, painful joints and movement, confusion, and depression, among other symptoms.
Q: What causes hypothyroidism?
Marla Ahlgrimm: A person may be born with hypothyroidism, although that is rare. Usually, hypothyroidism is caused by an autoimmune disorder where antibodies produced by the immune system attack a person’s thyroid tissue. Hypothyroidism may also be caused by treatment for hyperthyroidism or thyroid surgery, iodine deficiency, or hormone imbalance. Certain radiation treatments may affect the thyroid gland, as can many known medications. One notable chemical that may adversely affect thyroid function is lithium, which is used to treat certain psychiatric disorders.