Originally published: 24.MAY.2018
Last updated: 09.AUG.2023
According to the American Thyroid Association around 2 percent of Americans have hypothyroidism and more than half of those living with hypothyroidism don’t realize they have it. 
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). This can cause a whole host of symptoms including tiredness, sensitivity to the cold, and fluctuations in weight. Below, read more about this common thyroid condition including symptoms and treatment plus hear from Stephanie O’Quigley who has lived with hypothyroidism for over 11 years.
- What is Hypothyroidism?
- Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
- Treatment for Hypothyroidism
- Stephanie on Living With Hypothyroidism
What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid, is a hormonal disorder. It occurs when your thyroid (the small butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck) is not producing a sufficient level of the thyroid hormones: thyroxine (T-4) and triiodothyronine (T-3). Both play important roles in the body including regulating metabolism, hair growth, and heart rate.
Common causes and conditions that can lead to hypothyroidism include:
- Autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto's disease
- Thyroid surgery
- Radiation therapy
- Certain medications
- Congenital hypothyroidism (present at birth)
Hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid disorder. Statistics show that women are much more likely to have the condition, with the Office on Women’s Health declaring that one in 8 women will experience thyroid problems in their lifetime.  However, it should not be overlooked that men can also develop thyroid disorders.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
The symptoms of hypothyroidism can vary from person to person and while some people may notice symptoms early, some may not detect any changes until years later.
Some symptoms to keep an eye out for may include:
- Unusual weight gain and poor appetite
- Feeling cold when others are not or having a body temperature consistently below 37 °C (98.5 °F)
- Brain fog, poor concentration or memory
- Neck swelling, snoring, or hoarse voice
- Muscle or joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, or tendonitis
- Worsened PMS, irregular periods, infertility, and low sex drive
- Mood disturbances such as mood swings, anxiety, or depression
- Lower energy levels
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Hoarse voice or sore throat
- Poor hearing
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or suspect that you may have a thyroid disorder, it’s important to speak with your doctor.
You can also check on your thyroid health from home with LetsGetChecked’s thyroid test. The thyroid test will provide insights into your thyroid health by looking at thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), free thyroxine (FT4), and free triiodothyronine (T3). TSH is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain and it controls the production of T3 and T4 from the thyroid gland.
You should consider getting tested if you:
- Have symptoms of an overactive thyroid
- Have symptoms of an underactive thyroid
- Have a family history of thyroid conditions
- Have an autoimmune condition such as celiac disease or type 1 diabetes
Related article: How do you check thyroid problems from home?
Treatment for Hypothyroidism
After a diagnosis of hypothyroidism (which will usually be based on the results of a blood test), your healthcare provider will help you find the correct treatment. Treating hypothyroidism usually requires taking thyroid hormone medicine each day - this should help return your hormone levels to a healthy level and support you in leading a healthy life.
Your healthcare provider will regularly check in on your thyroid hormone levels to ensure the medication is working correctly. If you have any concerns about your thyroid treatment, it is important to speak with your doctor.
Stephanie on Living With Hypothyroidism
When did you first begin to think that you suffered from hypothyroidism?
I remember I was on a school trip to Greece when I was fifteen years old. It was the first time I was away with all my friends and we were all sharing rooms. Of course, we were staying up late and were extremely active during the day. I barely ate the food because it was all unfamiliar and not what I was used to. By the end of the trip, I was falling asleep throughout the day and had no voice left whatsoever. I thought it was the tiredness catching up on me so I came home and took some cough drops for my throat and went to sleep. I didn't wake up or eat for 72 hours.
In the weeks following I went to school and would come home and fall asleep in my uniform. My parents knew there was something wrong and brought me to get everything checked. I found out the results that I had an underactive thyroid. It was hard to understand that I would have to take medication every day for the rest of my life.
What does it feel like?
Thankfully, even though I have had it for about 11 years, I feel pretty good now. I work long days and exercise a lot and for the most part, I'm able to keep up and bounce back from tiredness quicker than I did when I was a teenager. Having an underactive thyroid means your body will never function as well as everyone else's. It's just something I have to manage for the rest of my life.
What advice would you give to someone who is in a similar situation?
If you don't have thyroid issues, get checked regularly. If you do, get checked regularly as well. Managing your thyroid levels takes a lot of time and consistency but it's your wellbeing at stake and worth every minute of energy you need to achieve the best thyroid levels.
How do you manage your thyroid issues now?
I was transferred to a natural thyroid medication called Armour Thyroid and taking this in conjunction with Eltroxin has allowed me to maintain optimal thyroid levels. It wasn't until I combined the T3 and T4 hormones that all my hypothyroid symptoms began to dissolve. I worked hard on my fitness and diet over the past 5 years and can see the positive effect this has on me. I wouldn't give up exercise for the world, it makes me feel better more than anything else.
It's empowering...good health is truly empowering.
Do you think it's important to use your platform so people who suffer from an underactive thyroid can feel less alone?
One hundred percent! I have been blogging for 6 years and it's only in the last year or so that I have felt the value of bringing the truth to anyone who reads my blog. I have suffered from hypothyroidism for 11 years and only my close family and friends knew. Until you suffer from it yourself do you understand completely what it's like to have a hormonal imbalance and the effect of it? By putting myself out there and being vulnerable, I can do it with conviction knowing there are so many women out there who are going through the same stuff and can benefit from hearing my story. The struggle is real with this lifelong condition but you are not alone by any means.
What are the best three things you can do to help yourself live with an underactive thyroid?
It sounds like a cliche, and probably the last thing anyone wants to hear, but exercise, sleep, and diet are all important when it comes to feeling better with an underactive thyroid. By creating a good pattern of food, exercise, and sleep your overall mental health improves along with increased energy and motivation; all of which are lacking when you’re not receiving proper treatment! These are the things that are in your control so choose to make the right decision!
Written by Hannah Kingston | Medically reviewed by Medical Director Dominic Rowley
- American Thyroid Association. Hypothyroidism: A booklet for patients and their families. Online: Thyroid.org
- Office on Women’s Health. Thyroid disease. Online: Womenshealth.gov