Hypothyroidism is a condition of insufficient or absent thyroid hormone production in the body. This may be the result of an absent thyroid gland due to surgical excision, or a gland that is producing insufficient thyroid hormones.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism are extensive, and can be nonspecific, especially in older patients, and include: weight gain, cold intolerance, lethargy, weakness, constipation, hair changes, swelling and edema of extremities, and cardiac anomalies. Severe hypothyroidism is life threatening, and requires immediate treatment.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is autoimmune or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This results from the body developing antibodies to thyroid cells, causing the thyroid to eventually destroy itself. Iodine deficiency or surgical removal of the thyroid gland will also result in hypothyroidism.