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Hypothyroidism - FAQs

What causes hypothyroidism?

In most cases, hypothyroidism is caused by a condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, in which a patient’s immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid. Hypothyroidism can also be caused by the treatment of hyperthyroidism or by certain medications, and it may be present from birth. The thyroid may temporarily become underactive after pregnancy or if it is inflamed due to a viral infection. Finally, a problem with the pituitary gland can also cause hypothyroidism.

How is the diagnosis made?

A physical examination and laboratory tests that measure the amount of thyroid hormone (thyroxine or T4) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood are necessary. Measurements of antibodies in the blood that attack the thyroid (antithyroid antibodies) may help diagnose the cause of hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism cannot be detected solely by checking body temperature.

Is there any truth to the hypothyroidism diet? Can certain foods increase thyroid function?

No. Although there are several claims about hypothyroidism diets, there is no evidence that eating or avoiding certain foods will improve thyroid function in people with hypothyroidism. If you have hypothyroidism, take proper treatment as directed by our doctor. It is also important to note that too much dietary fibre can impair the absorption of the synthetic thyroid hormone. Certain foods, supplements and medications can have the same effect.
Avoid taking your thyroid hormone at the same time as:
  • walnuts
  • soybean flour
  • cottonseed meal
  • iron supplements or multivitamins containing iron
  • calcium supplements
  • antacids that contain aluminium or magnesium
  • some ulcer medications, such as sucralfate (Carafate)
  • some cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as those containing cholestyramine (Questran) and colestipol (Colestid)

To avoid potential interactions, eat the above foods or use those products several hours before or after you take your thyroid medication.

Can hypothyroidism cause joint pain?

Hypothyroidism can contribute to joint and muscle problems for some people, specifically in the following ways:
  • muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness, especially in the shoulders and hips
  • joint pain and stiffness
  • swelling of small joints in the hands and feet
  • carpal tunnel syndrome

Can hypothyroidism cause peripheral neuropathy and, if so, how is it treated?

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone; it is an uncommon cause of peripheral neuropathy, such as the carpal tunnel syndrome. Peripheral neuropathy is damage to your peripheral nerves, the nerves that carry information to and from your brain and spinal cord (central nervous system), and the rest of your body, such as your arms and legs. Peripheral neuropathy may be caused by severe, long-term and untreated hypothyroidism. Although the association between hypothyroidism and peripheral neuropathy is not fully understood, it is known that hypothyroidism can cause fluid retention, resulting in swollen tissues that exert pressure on peripheral nerves. Signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may include pain, burning sensation or numbness and tingling in the area affected by the nerve damage. It may also cause muscle weakness or loss of muscle control. See our doctor if you know or suspect you have hypothyroidism and you are having troublesome or painful symptoms in your limbs. Treatment of peripheral neuropathy due to hypothyroidism is directed at managing the underlying hypothyroidism and treating the resulting symptoms.

I am losing hair since many years. Can it be due to hypothyroidism?

If you are losing hair since many years, there is a strong possibility that there is some medical condition responsible for it. Yes, it may be possible that hypothyroidism is the reason for your hair loss. It is suggested that you see our doctors, who will study your hair loss and assess your overall health. Consulting our doctors will help you understand the exact reason for your hair loss, and they will also help you with a solution.

I have been gaining weight for a long time now. I have tried many different diets that helped me to reduce weight, but after a while, I gained that weight back. Is it possible that I have hypothyroidism?

Stubborn weight gain is a very common symptom of hypothyroidism. You should look out for other symptoms such as tiredness, mood swings, dry skin, etc., that indicate hypothyroidism. You need to consult our doctors who can help you understand the reason for your weight gain and why you are not able to lose weight. They would like to study your case history, after which they would advise a simple blood test to check your thyroid hormone levels.


Myths and facts

  1. Only older women develop thyroid problems.
    While a woman by the age of 60 has a one in five chance of developing a thyroid problem, they are not the only people who develop thyroid conditions. Women are vulnerable to thyroid conditions at any age and, in particular, during the postpartum period, but also as hormones begin to change around the late thirties. Men may also develop thyroid conditions and the symptoms do not differ much from women's experiences: weight changes, fatigue, anxiety, depression, loss of sex drive, hair loss, etc., are some of the symptoms that men with thyroid go through.
  2. Thyroid disease is easy to diagnose and treat.
    Many people have a difficult time getting diagnosed with the thyroid disease and, even when diagnosed, they discover that the radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid drugs for hyperthyroidism have not resolved their symptoms. More often, the ‘easy pill a day’ treatment for hypothyroidism leaves them miserable, sick and provides no relief from the symptoms. Many innovative practitioners and millions of patients know that thyroid disease is a complex, multi-faceted condition that requires a variety of approaches to diagnose and resolve.
  3. Hypothyroidism will only cause a weight gain of few kilos.
    While it is hard to always identify exactly how much weight gain is the direct result of hypothyroidism, reduced metabolism, reduced energy for exercise and other metabolic changes can result in a weight gain of more than 10 to 20 kilos for some people, depending on their metabolism.
  4. If you have a thyroid problem, you will develop goitre (enlarged thyroid).
    A majority of thyroid patients will not develop goitre.
  5. A lump or nodule in the thyroid means you have thyroid cancer.
    Actually, only 5% thyroid nodules are cancerous. Various diagnostic procedures can evaluate whether your nodule or lump is one of the rare, cancerous lumps.
  6. You will not have hypothyroidism symptoms unless your TSH is significantly elevated.
    While some less enlightened practitioners believe that there are no symptoms unless the TSH is significantly elevated, many patients report significant symptoms at high-normal TSH levels, or at elevated levels in the 6.0 to 10.0 range. Researchers have also found that not treating even mild or subclinical hypothyroidism in the range under a TSH of 10.0 puts you at a risk of several conditions, including heart disease and high cholesterol.

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