Hypothyroidism or myxedema is also referred to as having an underactive thyroid. Your thyroid is an important organ in the body and is responsible for your metabolism and other important functions. One of the signs of an underactive thyroid can be hunger. If your hunger gets out of control, you can easily gain weight, which leads to further health problems.
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Your thyroid gland is located at the base of your neck, below your voice box. It plays a major role in taking iodine and converting into the two major thyroid hormones —triiodothyronine T3 and thyroxine T4. Oftentimes, these hormones are referred to as TSH or total stimulated hormone. These hormones absorb iodine and combine with tyrosine to make T3 and T4 hormones, explains Endocrineweb. Your entire body relies on T3 and T4 hormones for regulation of metabolism. When your body reduces the amount of hormones that it makes, your metabolism throughout your body is affected, resulting in increased cholesterol levels, increased liver enzymes and low sodium levels. This can cause any type of food you intake for fuel to be stored as fat, leading to weight gain. You may also have an increase in appetite, even after a large meal.
Left untreated, hypothyroidism can have damaging effects on your health. Your doctor will run specific tests to determine if you have any other form of hypothyroidism, such as Hashimoto's disease, subacute thyroiditis or silent thyroiditis. Hashimoto's disease is a chronic or ongoing inflammation of the thyroid gland that results in hypothyroidism. It occurs when your immune system reacts against the thyroid gland. Subacute thryoiditis occurs after a respiratory infection and is temporary but requires medical intervention and treatment. Silent thyroiditis is a swelling of the thyroid that results in hyperthyroidism where the thyroid produces excess hormone and then alternates back to an underactive thyroid. With silent thyroiditis you may see changes in your appetite ranging from extreme hunger to loss of appetite.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include depression, fatigue, weakness, brittle nails, pale skin tone, hoarseness, puffy hands, slurred speech, insomnia and weight gain. While an increase in appetite is often associated with an overactive thyroid, when your TSH levels are low, you may also experience an increase in appetite throughout the day. If you are having trouble swallowing or your doctor feels that your thyroid is enlarged, he may order an X-ray or ultrasound to determine if a goiter is present. A goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid where nodules may be present and interfere with speech and breathing.
Hypothyroidism is treated through a synthetic hormone such as synthroid that helps take the place of T3 and T4 to help the thyroid function properly. Synthetic thyroid therapy will have to be carried out for the rest of your life. Hormone therapy needs to be monitored closely until the right level is reached — a side effect may be an increase in TSH, which could cause your thyroid to become overactive, leading to fast heart rate and weight loss. Radioactive iodine therapy may also be instituted to help shrink your thyroid and control hormone levels.