Thyroid, a tiny, butterfly-shaped gland that is situated above your voice box (larynx) and in front of your windpipe (trachea), can have a significant effect on your health and wellbeing. Your thyroid continuously produces hormones that affect your metabolism throughout your life. Your mood, energy, body temperature, weight, heart, and other factors are influenced by these hormones.
A brief overview of hypothyroidism
T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine), two different types of thyroid hormones, are produced by the thyroid. By regulating how quickly and effectively cells turn nutrients into energy, a chemical process known as metabolism, these hormones have an impact on every cell, tissue, and organ in your body, from your muscles, bones, and skin to your digestive tract, brain, and heart.
The pituitary gland has an impact on the thyroid gland. The pituitary gland, which is smaller than a pea and situated near the base of the brain, regulates your thyroid’s synthesis of thyroid hormone by secreting thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
Whether there is enough thyroid hormone produced to suit your body’s needs determines whether TSH levels in your circulation increase or decrease. TSH signals the thyroid to create more thyroid hormone when levels are higher and less thyroid hormone when levels are lower.
When the thyroid cannot create enough thyroid hormone to meet the body’s requirements, hypothyroidism develops, slowing metabolism. Thyroid hormone levels are below normal and TSH levels are significantly above normal in people with overt hypothyroidism.
What is mild hypothyroidism?
The common definition of hypothyroidism does not apply to subclinical or moderate hypothyroidism. You may or may not have symptoms of moderate hypothyroidism, and while your T4 and T3 levels are normal, your TSH levels are slightly raised. A blood test is used to diagnose mild hypothyroidism.
What are the risks of leaving mild hypothyroidism untreated?
The question of whether to treat mild hypothyroidism has been researched and discussed for many years. The potential connection between untreated mild hypothyroidism and coronary artery disease is what bothers doctors the most about this condition. Research has shown mixed findings about the link between subclinical thyroid illness and heart issues. Studies show that treating moderate hypothyroidism can improve a number of markers of heart shape and function. The illness has been linked to abnormalities of the heart and blood vessels.
The researchers looked at individuals who had mild hypothyroidism and a heart attack. They treated one group of these patients for moderate hypothyroidism while leaving the other group untreated. The study found no difference in heart function between individuals receiving treatment for moderate hypothyroidism and those who did not.
What are the downsides of treating mild hypothyroidism?
When mild hypothyroidism is treated, levothyroxine (T4) is the treatment of choice.
There is little benefit from treating mild hypothyroidism in persons 65 and older. Levothyroxine recipients were found to have similar symptoms to those who did not take the medication.
There are other causes for concern in addition to the chance that the treatment may not be beneficial at all. Overtreatment carries major hazards, especially thyrotoxicosis, the condition in which the body produces too much thyroid hormone. Overtreatment includes prescribing thyroid medication to someone with subclinical disease who may not need treatment and supplying excessive thyroid medication. Thyrotoxicosis is a common occurrence; estimates indicate that 20% or more of people receiving thyroid hormone treatment do so. Even minor thyrotoxicosis can have long-term side effects, such as heart issues and bone loss.
Considering the risks and benefits of treatment
Consider these issues with your doctor if you are assessing the benefits and drawbacks of hypothyroidism therapy:
- How might I benefit from treatment? Could it treat my symptoms? Prevent heart disease? Help me conceive?
- What are the risks of treatment?
- How will we know if treatment is working, and how long will it take to determine this?
- For how long will I need to continue treatment?