Rich Travis, Staff Writer
Weight gain or the inability to lose weight, is one of the most common and frustrating problems of having an underactive thyroid, also known as Hypothyroidism. Unfortunately, there are a slew of other more serious issues surrounding this type of thyroid disease, as I can fully attest to. I see it first hand with my wife, every day.
Long-term hypothyroidism can cause some serious and even life-threatening complications, if left untreated. Pay attention to the signs your body is giving you and don’t put off going to the doctor. Functional, Integrative, Endocrinologist… just get to a doctor for a FULL thyroid blood panel.
Sometimes, however, they can become extremely serious. If the symptoms are ignored or left untreated, these issues with Hypothyroidism can lead to a number of health problems and complications, such as:
Short-term Possible Complications of Hypothyroidism
- Goiter – Constant stimulation of your thyroid to release more hormones may cause the gland to become larger — a condition known as a goiter. Hashimoto thyroiditis is one of the most common causes of a goiter. Although generally not uncomfortable, a large goiter can affect your appearance and may interfere with swallowing or breathing.
- Heart problems – Hypothyroidism may also be associated with an increased risk of heart disease, primarily because high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the “bad” cholesterol — can occur in people with an underactive thyroid. Even subclinical hypothyroidism, a more benign condition than true hypothyroidism, can cause an increase in total cholesterol levels and impair the pumping ability of your heart. Hypothyroidism can also lead to an enlarged heart and heart failure.
- Mental health issues – Depression may occur early in hypothyroidism and may become more severe over time. Hypothyroidism can also cause slowed mental functioning.
- Birth defects – Babies born to women with untreated thyroid disease may have a higher risk of birth defects than may babies born to healthy mothers. These children are also more prone to serious intellectual and developmental problems. Infants with untreated hypothyroidism present at birth are at risk of serious problems with both physical and mental development. But if this condition is diagnosed within the first few months of life, the chances of normal development are excellent.Birth Defects: Children born to mothers who have untreated underactive thyroid conditions are more likely to be born with birth defects.
We have a son, who was born with issues that are related to my wife’s undiagnosed and misdiagnosed Hypothyroidism. He is currently being tested for thyroid disease, MTHFR and a myriad of other things. He was diagnosed with having ADHD and anxiety for the past 7 years. The misdiagnosis and undiagnosis of my wife’s underactive thyroid, has led her to needlessly suffer, but, in turn, has possibly taken off some quality years of our son’s life as he may have been misdiagnosed as well. His symptoms, which are very similar to hers, are probably thyroid and leaky gut related problems. His abnormal blood work was a discovery we diagnosed on our own, not from the prompting of any healthcare professional. The system may have failed us temporarily, but it is never too late. Be careful, pay attention and become familiar with the symptoms.
Long-Term and Possibly Permanent Complications of Untreated Thyroid Conditions
- Myxedema– This rare, life-threatening condition is the result of long-term, undiagnosed hypothyroidism. Its signs and symptoms include intense cold intolerance and drowsiness followed by profound lethargy and unconsciousness. A myxedema coma may be triggered by sedatives, infection or other stress on your body. If you have signs or symptoms of myxedema, you need immediate emergency medical treatment.
- Cretinism – Children born with this thyroid condition can develop severe mental disabilities if the disease is not caught immediately and treated. The first year of life is the most important in the case of permanent congenital hypothyroidism. Infants lose between 3 and 5 points in IQ levels every month when the condition is undiagnosed. Treatment of congenital thyroid problems may not totally reverse the effects or stop the deterioration, and adults born with the disease often have a milder form of memory problems and the ability to process information. Slow thyroid problems developed after the age of 2 is not known to cause retardation in children.
- Peripheral neuropathy – Long-term uncontrolled hypothyroidism can cause damage to your peripheral nerves — the nerves that carry information from your brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body, for example your arms and legs. Signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may include pain, numbness and tingling in the area affected by the nerve damage. It may also cause muscle weakness or loss of muscle control.
- Infertility – Low levels of thyroid hormone can interfere with ovulation, which impairs fertility. In addition, some of the causes of hypothyroidism — such as autoimmune disorder — also impair fertility. Treating hypothyroidism with thyroid hormone replacement therapy may not fully restore fertility. Other interventions may be needed, as well.
- Dementia and Delirium – While the immediate effects of delirium are usually reversed with treatment, there can be long term memory and concentration problems resulting from untreated or delayed treatment of hypothyroidism.
Seeking medical advice is obviously, one of the most effective ways to prevent serious complications of hypothyroidism or any thyroid disease.Pay attention to the signs your body is giving you and don't put off going to the doctor if you suspect thyroid issues and always consider a functional root cause approach. Click To Tweet
This is a perplexing disease and since it’s symptoms are so similar to other problems and conditions, it’s a good idea to do your homework beforehand. Researching, learning from others and being prepared to self-advocate, even when consulting with your chosen healthcare professional, may also be necessary tools in unraveling the mysteries of hypothyroidism. See a full list of symptoms here.
Always consider a functional medicine practitioner to compliment your conventional doctor.