Does Hypothyroidism Run In Your Family? Be On The Lookout

Posted on: 10 June 2015

If one of your immediate family members has been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid does not produce enough hormones, then you need to be on the lookout for symptoms of the disease, too. Hypothyroidism runs in families, putting you at an increased risk of developing the condition. Here's a look at the symptoms you should watch for, and why early diagnosis is so important.

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

The hormones produced by the thyroid gland regulate your metabolism. Without enough of these hormones, your bodily functions tend to operate sluggishly, and your energy levels plummet. Feeling tired is the first symptom that many hypothyroidism patients experience, but few report this symptom when it first occurs -- they assume they're just overworked or becoming ill with a flu.

Other symptoms of hypothyroidism, which start slowly and become worse over time, include:

  • Feelings of depression and mental exhaustion
  • Rapid, unexplained changes in weight and appetite
  • Trouble warming up, even in the summer
  • Difficulty recalling important facts and life events
  • Dry, flaky skin, hair and nails

Who is at the highest risk of hypothyroidism?

As someone with a family member with hypothyroidism, you're at an increased risk of the disease. However, there are several factors that increase your risk even more substantially:

  • Being female (more women than men have this condition)
  • Being over 60 years old
  • Prior use of the drugs amiodarone or lithium
  • Prior radiation treatments for cancer of any sort

If you fall into any of these categories, you should not only stay on the lookout for hypothyroid symptoms, but also consider having your thyroid hormone levels tested regularly by your doctor.

Why is early diagnosis of hypothyroidism so important?

The longer you wait to treat this condition, the worse the symptoms become. You may feel mildly fatigued and have slightly dry skin one month, which is tolerable, but a few months down the line, you could be severely overweight, have nails that peel and flake off, and have lost a substantial portion of your memory.

How is hypothyroidism treated?

Treating hypothyroidism is not complicated. Patients are given medications to replace the hormones their thyroid gland is not producing. When the disease is caught early, symptoms usually recede within a week or two of treatment. However, if the disease becomes very bad before the patient seeks treatment, it can take a long time for doctors to find the right dose of medication and fully alleviate the severe symptoms.

If your family member has been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, you should be hyper-aware of the symptoms of this condition and contact your doctor if you think there is any chance you're developing it. Treatment is not difficult -- most patients tolerate medication very well -- so you have no reason to fear going to the doctor. Call Alpine Ear, Nose & Throat, PC or an ENT doctor near you to learn more.