Underactive thyroid: when the metabolism gets out of balance
When there are problems with the thyroid gland, the entire metabolism is often out of balance. The psyche also suffers in patients with hypothyroidism. Once the diagnosis is established, the disease can usually be treated well.
Diagnosis often between the ages of 40 and 60
According to the Professional Association of German Internists (BDI), at least two percent of all women, but only around 0.1 to 0.2 percent of men, suffer from an underactive thyroid. According to the experts, this is usually discovered between the age of 40. "The disease rate increases with age," the experts write on their website "Internists on the Internet". In a message from the dpa news agency, experts have important information on the subject.
Effects on the entire metabolism
Symptoms that may indicate that the thyroid gland no longer controls hormone production properly include sleep disorders, hair loss, weight gain and tearfulness. Fatigue and freezing can also indicate the disease.
Hormones are formed in the butterfly-shaped organ, which are required for cell growth and metabolism. If it no longer works properly and produces less hormones than the body needs in an underactive condition, this affects the entire metabolism.
"They are often very unspecific symptoms," explained Markus Quante, specialist for internal medicine and general practitioner in Münster, in the dpa report. "Patients complain of reduced performance and lack of drive, they can no longer concentrate, they have constipation and brittle hair or fingernails."
In addition, many sufferers report depression-like moods, in which they seem to burst into tears for no reason and cannot explain their condition. "You feel really bad," said Quante.
Laboratory and ultrasound examination
According to the expert, you should see a doctor if the discomfort persists for several weeks and additional symptoms appear. Based on the blood values, the doctor can determine whether the thyroid is actually responsible for the problems.
"One can already see from the unspecific complaints that it is difficult to make an assignment," said the head of the Department of Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases of the University Medical Center Mainz, Prof. Matthias M. Weber.
According to the endocrinologist, symptoms such as hair loss or fatigue alone are not meaningful. "You always need a laboratory examination." The thyroid is also checked by ultrasound to detect changes in size or structure.
Six millimeter thyroid
The agency report also deals with the special case of a patient: the symptoms of 40-year-old Alexandra Burmeister were also non-specific, and the underactive thyroid was recognized very late. "In the beginning, I mainly had mood swings, panic attacks and fears," said the Hamburg native.
It got worse, but it wasn't until seven years later that a general practitioner did an ultrasound of the thyroid. "It came out that my thyroid was only six millimeters in size, which is far too small," said Burmeister. She was diagnosed with hypothyroidism caused by Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
Hashimoto's thyroiditis destroys thyroid tissue
"This is one of the most common autoimmune diseases in humans," said Prof. Weber. "This destroys the thyroid tissue and inactivates the thyroid gland - until it completely fails."
Hashimoto's thyroiditis sometimes coexists with other autoimmune diseases. Among other things, with type 1 diabetes, celiac disease (gluten allergy) or white spot disease. Barbara Schulte, Chairman of the Thyroid League Germany, said in an older message: "Hashimoto is not a bad disease, you just have to recognize it early enough."
Hypothyroidism is easy to treat
Quante also emphasized that an underactive thyroid is easy to treat. "Patients receive L-thyroxine, which replaces the under-developed or under-developed thyroid hormones in tablet form."
According to Weber, the treatment "in the vast majority of cases" is lifelong. "Therefore, one should be very precise with the diagnosis of" underactive thyroid "." The expert recommends patients with unclear laboratory values to consult an experienced endocrinologist.
However, both Quante and Weber emphasized that an actually diagnosed hypothyroidism must be treated. Otherwise the entire system could collapse. (ad)