Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Can a person die from Hypothyroid? What are the consequences of it?

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the body lacks sufficient thyroid hormone. Since the main purpose of thyroid hormone is to "run the body's metabolism", it is understandable that people with this condition will have symptoms associated with a slow metabolism. Over five million Americans have this common medical condition. In fact, as many as ten percent of women may have some degree of thyroid hormone deficiency. Hypothyroidism is more common than you would believe...and, millions of people are currently hypothyroid and don't know it!

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight
Coarse, dry hair
Dry, rough pale skin
Hair loss
Cold intolerance (can't tolerate the cold like those around you)
Muscle cramps and frequent muscle aches
Memory loss
Abnormal menstrual cycles
Decreased libido

Each individual patient will have any number of these symptoms which will vary with the severity of the thyroid hormone deficiency and the length of time the body has been deprived of the proper amount of hormone. Some patients will have one of these symptoms as their main complaint, while another will not have that problem at all and will be suffering from a different symptom. Most will have a combination of a number of these symptoms. Occasionally, some patients with hypothyroidism have no symptoms at all, or they are just so subtle that they go unnoticed. Note: Although this may sound obvious, if you have these symptoms, you need to discuss them with your doctor and probably seek the skills of an endocrinologist. If you have already been diagnosed and treated for hypothyroidism and you continue to have any or all of these symptoms, you need to discuss it with your physician. Although treatment of hypothyroidism can be quite easy in some individuals, others will have a difficult time finding the right type and amount of replacement thyroid hormone.

Since hypothyroidism is caused by too little thyroid hormone secreted by the thyroid, the diagnosis of hypothyroidism is based almost exclusively upon measuring the amount of thyroid hormone in the blood. There are normal ranges for all thyroid hormones which have been calculated by computers which measured these hormones in tens of thousands of people. If your thyroid hormone levels fall below the normal range, that is consistent with hypothyroidism These tests are very accurate and reliable and are so routine that they are available to everybody.


hypo = too little
thyroidism = disease of the thyroid
Thus, hypo-thyroidism = a disease of too little thyroid activity.

The idea is to measure blood levels of T4 and TSH. In the typical person with an under-active thyroid gland, the blood level of T4 (the main thyroid hormone) will be low, while the TSH level will be high. This means that the thyroid is not making enough hormone and the pituitary recognizes it and is responding appropriately by making more Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) in an attempt to force more hormone production out of the thyroid. In the more rare case of hypothyroidism due to pituitary failure, the thyroid hormone T4 will be low, but the TSH level will also be low. The thyroid is behaving "appropriately" under these conditions because it can only make hormone in response to TSH signals from the pituitary. Since the pituitary is not making enough TSH, then the thyroid will never make enough T4. The real question in this situation is what is wrong with the pituitary? But in the typical and most common form of hypothyroidism, the main thyroid hormone T4 is low, and the TSH level is high.

The next question is: When is low too low, and when is high too high? Blood levels have "normal" ranges, but other factors need to be taken into account as well, such as the presence or absence of symptoms. You should discuss your levels with your doctor so you can interpret how they are helping (or not?) fix your problems.

Oh, if only it were this simple all the time! Although the majority of individuals with hypothyroidism will be easy to diagnose with these simple blood tests, many millions will have this disease in mild to moderate forms which are more difficult to diagnose. The solution for these people is more complex and this is due to several factors. First we must realize that not all patients with hypothyroidism are the same. There are many degrees of this disease from very severe to very mild. Additionally, and very importantly, we cannot always predict just how bad (or good) an individual patient will feel just by examining his/her thyroid hormone levels. In other words, some patients with very "mild" deviations in their thyroid laboratory test results will feel just fine while others will be quite symptomatic. The degree of thyroid hormone abnormalities often, but NOT ALWAYS will correlate with the degree of symptoms. It is important for both you and your physician to keep this in mind since the goal is not necessarily to make the lab tests go into the normal range, but to make you feel better as well! We must also keep in mind that even the "normal" thyroid hormone levels in the blood have a fairly large range, so even if a patient is in the "normal" range, it may not be the normal level for them.

For the majority of patients with hypothyroidism, taking some form of thyroid hormone replacement (synthetic or natural, pill or liquid, etc) will make the "thyroid function tests" return to the normal range, AND, this is accompanied by a general improvement in symptoms making the patient feel better. This does not happen to all individuals, however, and for these patients it is very important to find an endocrinologist who will listen and be sympathetic. (We aim to help you find this type of doctor.) Because most patients will be improved (or made completely better) when sufficient thyroid hormone is provided on a daily basis to make the hormone levels in the blood come into the normal range, physicians will often will rely on test results to determine when a patient is on the appropriate dose and therefore doing well. Remember, these tests have a wide normal range. Find a doctor who helps make you FEEL better, not just make your labs better because once given this diagnosis, you are likely to carry it for a long, long time. There is more than one drug, there is more than one lab test, and there is a "just right" doctor for everybody.

Treatment of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is usually quite easy to treat (for most people)! The easiest and most effective treatment is simply taking a thyroid hormone pill (Levothyroxine) once a day, preferably in the morning. This medication is a pure synthetic form of T4 which is made in a laboratory to be an exact replacement for the T4 that the human thyroid gland normally secretes. It comes in multiple strengths, which means that an appropriate dosage can almost always be found for each patient. The dosage should be re-evaluated and possibly adjusted monthly until the proper level is established. The dose should then be re-evaluated at least annually. If you are on this medication, make sure your physician knows it so he/she can check the levels at least yearly. Note: Just like we discussed above, however, this simple approach does not hold true for everybody. Occasionally the correct dosage is a bit difficult to pin-point and therefore you may need an exam and blood tests more frequently. Also, some patients just don't do well on some thyroid medications and will be quite happy on another. For these reasons you should not be shy in discussing with your doctor your blood hormone tests, symptoms, how you feel, and the type of medicine you are taking. The goal is to make you feel better, make your body last longer, slow the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis...in addition to making your blood levels normal! Sometimes that's easy, when its not, you need a physician who is willing to spend the time with you that you deserve while you explore different dosages other types of medications (or alternative diagnoses).

Some patients will notice a slight reduction in symptoms within 1 to 2 weeks, but the full metabolic response to thyroid hormone therapy is often delayed for a month or two before the patient feels completely normal. It is important that the correct amount of thyroid hormone is used. Not enough and the patient may have continued fatigue or some of the other symptoms of hypothyroidism. Too high a dose could cause symptoms of nervousness, palpitations or insomnia typical of hyperthyroidism. Some recent studies have suggested that too much thyroid hormone may cause increased calcium loss from bone increasing the patient's risk for osteoporosis. For patients with heart conditions or diseases, an optimal thyroid dose is particularly important. Even a slight excess may increase the patient's risk for heart attack or worsen angina. Some physicians feel that more frequent dose checks and blood hormone levels are appropriate in these patients.

After about one month of treatment, hormone levels are measured in the blood to establish whether the dose of thyroid hormone which the patient is taking is appropriate. We don't want too much given or subtle symptoms of hyperthyroidism could ensue, and too little would not alleviate the symptoms completely. Often blood samples are also checked to see if there are antibodies against the thyroid, a sign of autoimmune thyroiditis. Remember, this is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Once treatment for hypothyroidism has been started, it typically will continue for the patient's life. Therefore, it is of great importance that the diagnosis be firmly established and you have a good relationship with a physician you like and trust.

Synthetic T4 can be safely taken with most other medications. Patients taking cholestyramine (a compound used to lower blood cholesterol) or certain medications for seizures should check with their physician about potential interactions. Women taking T4 who become pregnant should feel confident that the medication is exactly what their own thyroid gland would otherwise make. However, they should check with their physician since the T4 dose may have to be adjusted during pregnancy (usually more hormone is needed to meet the increased demands of the mother's new increased metabolism). There are other potential problems with other drugs including iron-containing vitamins. Once again, pregnant women (and all women and men for that matter) taking iron supplements should discuss this with your physician. There are three brand name Levothyroxine tablets now available. You may want to consult with your physician or pharmacist on the most cost effective brand since recent studies suggest that none is better than the other.

I hope this helps. As long as you are treated, you shouldn't have any problems. Good Luck.
If left untreated yes. But with proper medication and health care it is completely managable. I know about this very well. Your thyroid controls or affects many body functions, mainly metabolism, and hypothyroid can cause weight gain, extreme fatigue, tumors of the thyroid and other conditions. But it is a fairly common condition and if you have a good doctor who checks your blood levels regularly throughout the year and adjusts your medications it is usually not even a noticable problem to live with. I was hypothyroid, I had a tumor diagnosed when I was 12. I later had a complete thyroidectomy because of cancer at 20, but that is not a common occurance, so don't let that freak you out! Most people with thyroid trouble never have cancer! But I know a lot about how to deal with underactive thyroid because I don't have one at all anymore, so I am regulated by my medication, and I have no problems. If you have any questions or just want to talk, email me anytime. Hope that helps you some. Don't worry!
"Hypothyroidism may cause a variety of symptoms and can affect all body functions. The body's normal rate of functioning slows, causing mental and physical sluggishness. Symptoms vary from mild to severe. The most severe form is called myxedema, which is a medical emergency and can lead to coma and death."
yes. you can have heart failure. I just got treated for this in December of 2006. now I am on thyroid replacement therapy. I had hypothyroidism for about a year before it was treated. It was discovered in my yearly blood work examine. So mine was pretty serious. the TSH was 121.43 You will need to be treated for this and thank goodness it is treatable. and very common
It would be rare, but it could happen if one went without medication for many years. They would probably die from a heart attack that happened because of the increased cholesterol levels that are a symptom of hypothyroidism. Because the thyroid gland is the master gland it relates to all systems in the body. That's why when the gland is underactive, one needs to take thyroid hormone.

Here are some of the symptoms of the condition. As you'll see some are serious; weight gain, difficulty losing weight with diet %26 exercise, IBS with constipation, dry skin, dry thinning hair, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to cold, low body temp, low blood pressure, headaches, slow heart rate, mood changes, fatigue, depression, goiter, increased cholesterol levels, muscle %26 joint aches, fertility problems, menstrual problems, sleep apnea, and deepened voice.

Here is a link to a website with lots of hypothyroid info.
Yes, one can die from hypothyroidism. But, why do that when all you need to do is take a pill 1x day for the rest of your life and get your blood levels tested annually? The thyroid gland regulates your entire metabolism. Don't ignore the condition. If you do, like a clock you will wind down.


  1. Really sorry for all with a diagnoses of hypothyroidism. But it's curable if you're mentally strong enough to deal with its complication. This is by far the most helpful resource I've foiund so far.


    My sister has hypothyroidism and we are looking for as much information as we can find.

  2. People with low thyroid often gain weight and have difficulty losing weight despite a normal diet. This can be frustrating. Fortunately with natural thyroid , hypothyroid symptoms can be lessened.

  3. Hi ive been hypothyroid for 2 years and didnt find out till last year but ive had tons of problems with the synthroid so im headed to see an endocrinologist in two weeks. I have insomnia i stay depressed i hurt all over and i have two children i barely keep up with. Just take ur pill and get it under control.

  4. I found out I have thyroid in 2000 when I did a pregnancy by blood doctor scared me when he told me I was freaking out he told me it was going to affect my baby didn't explain it to me right it gets controlled for awhile then out of nowhere it's all bad.

  5. Hello my name is Sharon am getting ready to have thyroid surgery next month and it scares me , the medicine the doctor was giving me cause my liver to get hepatitis c and now am having surgery please help to get though my fears waiting for surgery is making me freak out

  6. Hello my name is Sharon am getting ready to have thyroid surgery next month and it scares me , the medicine the doctor was giving me cause my liver to get hepatitis c and now am having surgery please help to get though my fears waiting for surgery is making me freak out

  7. Dear Sharon, I had 3/5 of my thyroid removed 54 years ago, b/c of a "pre-cancerous tumor." I have had zero problems, as the remaining 1/3 of my thyroid has kept up full function and produces the same amount of thyroid hormone as the whole gland did. I have routine blood tests for thyroid function. So far, so good. The surgery was very tame; I was put completely under. Nowadays, thyroid surgery can leave an invisible scar. My scar is visible and I hate it. A friend of mine has an invisible scar. I'm envious. I guess you've probably had your surgery already. But if not you might want to ask if it's necessary to remove the entire gland.

  8. Mine is hoshimotos its been hell for 21 years now loads of Medacine changes all the time
    Now just began menapause

  9. I'm having bad problems with my thyroid been fighting this for long long time Dr keeps switching my pills I feel week very tired moody hair falling out sick all time loosing so much weight depresson I need a new Dr