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Does Hypothyroidism Run In The Family?

Health Advocate Susan Lorimor shares about her family’s experience with hypothyroidism.
Does Hypothyroidism Run In The Family?

Susan Lorimor

Women's Health Advocate

About ten years ago, my mom was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I remember she had been concerned because no matter how much extra exercise she got and how much she altered her diet, she continued to gain weight, while feeling fatigued all of the time. This persisted until finally, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism.


Her doctor worked closely with her to get her symptoms under control which improved her health & well-being. With that, she urged me to also be tested for hypothyroidism if I ever showed symptoms of the condition.


Some common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:


·      Weight gain;

·      Fatigue;

·      Dry, pale skin;

·      Frequent muscle cramps and aches;

·      Depression or other mood changes;

·      Coarse, dry hair; and

·      Constipation.


Could It Be Hypothyroidism?


While you might experience those symptoms for a variety of reasons, it’s a combination of them that could signal a thyroid condition. A good rule of thumb is to pay particular attention to a symptom if it is new or worsening. Keep in mind there are no set symptoms everyone with hypothyroidism experiences; only your doctor can diagnose you with hypothyroidism.


Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid hormone production drops which in turn causes your body processes to slow down and change. These hormones regulate your body’s energy use in the form of blood pressure, blood temperature, and heart rate. 


Looking back, I had no idea my mom’s body was being impacted so greatly. It must have been confusing and frustrating to experience the symptoms she did. And, she was right to be concerned about whether I might one day develop hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism Can Be Hereditary


A study done at a hospital in Western India concluded that first-degree family members of patients with hypothyroidism due to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis have an increased risk of developing hypothyroidism.

Hashimoto’s is the number one cause of hypothyroidism. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s antibodies attack and destroy the thyroid, instead of fighting infection as they should. 

This large study evaluated the families of 264 patients with hypothyroidism due to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Nearly 900 first-degree relatives (such as parents, siblings or children) of these patients underwent comprehensive thyroid evaluation. 

Results showed that parents and siblings each had a six-fold higher risk of developing Hashimoto’s Disease than did members of the general population, while children had a three-fold higher risk of developing it.


Testing for Hypothyroidism

I was first tested for hypothyroidism a few years ago as part of an annual physical, and while I do not have the condition, I am glad my primary care doctor suggested the test. I was not showing signs of hypothyroidism, but the test gave me a baseline in case I ever did begin to show them. 

And, knowledge is power. 

This is the same reason a friend of mine ensured her now-28-year-old daughter was tested for hypothyroidism.


Like my mother, my friend struggled for years to learn the cause of her fatigue and weight gain, until she was finally tested for hypothyroidism. Her doctor kept brushing her symptoms off as something else. However, she did not want her daughter to go through the same thing, especially since undiagnosed thyroid disease puts patients at risk for other ailments, such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and infertility. 


The American Thyroid Association encourages those with hypothyroidism to urge their relatives to have periodic screening tests. Those tests would examine the levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in their bodies — and abnormally high TSH level could signal hypothyroidism.


The Bottom Line? 

Discuss with your doctor your family history of thyroid conditions and any concerns you may have about hypothyroidism. He or she could help assess your risk and determine next steps.


While hypothyroidism can affect your body in many ways, it is treatable and any symptoms you may have can be controlled. As a daughter of someone with the condition, I rest easy knowing that it can be managed, and I am fortunate there are screening tests that can help me understand by thyroid health. 

Testing for hypothyroidism is as easy as taking a blood test (you can even do it from home with Paloma). My mother, on the other hand, did not have it so easy, as she had to go through the challenge of experiencing symptoms and trying to cope with them before she was tested and learned what was happening to her body. Now, with them under control, they are much less of a concern. 

Susan Lorimor

Women's Health Advocate

Susan is a women's health advocate and breast cancer survivor. She writes about her experience as a survivor and other health-related topics. You can find Susan on www.takethatbreastcancer.com.

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