What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland is not able to produce enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid is a small gland at the base of your neck, just below your Adam's apple. Its job is to produce hormones that regulate your body's energy use, along with many other essential functions.
When your thyroid hormone production drops, your body processes slow down and change. Hypothyroidism affects virtually every system in your body.
Risk of developing hypothyroidism
Though hypothyroidism most often affects women, anyone can develop hypothyroidism. You're at an increased risk if you:
- Are older than 60
- Have a family history of thyroid disease
- Have an autoimmune disease, such as type 1 diabetes or celiac disease
- Have been treated with radioactive iodine or anti-thyroid medications
- Received radiation to your neck or upper chest
- Have had thyroid surgery (partial thyroidectomy)
Causes of hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism may be due to several factors, including:
Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune condition that attacks your thyroid gland and causes chronic thyroid inflammation. This disease is the most common cause of an underactive thyroid.
When the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, you have a condition known as hyperthyroidism. Treatment for this condition aims to reduce thyroid hormone production. Sometimes treatment causes thyroid hormone levels to remain permanently low, often occurring after treatment with radioactive iodine.
Radiation used to treat cancers of the head and neck may affect your thyroid gland, leading to hypothyroidism.
Removing some or all of your thyroid gland can impact hormone production. In this instance, you'll need to take thyroid hormone for life.
Several medications can contribute to hypothyroidism. If you take medication, ask your doctor about how it affects your thyroid gland.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism may not cause noticeable symptoms in the early stages. However, undiagnosed thyroid disease puts patients at risk for other problems, such as obesity, joint pain, or heart disease.
Check out these five common symptoms of hypothyroidism in men:
Gain weight despite double days at the gym
You may grow frustrated if you're working out regularly, eating healthy, and yet you still gain weight or have increased difficulty losing weight.
Thyroid dysfunction affects body weight and composition, body temperature, and total and resting energy expenditure regardless of physical activity. Since thyroid hormones regulate metabolism and thermogenesis (heat regulation), decreased activity of both could correlate with a higher BMI and a higher possibility of obesity.
The good news? Hormone replacement therapy can improve resting energy expenditure in those with underactive thyroid, making it easier to keep the weight off.
Feel cold all the time
More than stepping outside on a chilly day without a jacket, a possible sign of hypothyroidism is feeling cold all the time. As mentioned above, the thyroid regulates thermogenesis (temperature regulation). Basal body temperature is the temperature of your body at rest. Even a slight change in thyroid hormone levels could mean that you might not only feel cold, but you might actually be cold. Standard body temperature is 98.6 degrees, but someone with hypothyroidism could have a lower basal body temperature.
Can't shake your "off" mood
Low thyroid hormones can affect more than your physical body. This condition can affect your cognition, too, which can affect your mental health, your memory, and your ability to think clearly. This mental fuzziness is sometimes called "brain fog." An underactive thyroid can make you sluggish, tired, and lacking the energy to do the things you usually enjoy - all symptoms of depression.
Appropriate and successful treatments for depression include talk therapy and antidepressant medication, as well as strategies for relaxation. However, if a person with depression also has an underactive thyroid gland, they may be missing a critical piece in their treatment plan.
Sex life is the pits
According to a 2019 study done by the Tulane University School of Medicine, hypothyroidism strongly associates with erectile dysfunction and delayed ejaculation.
Hypothyroidism can also affect circulating sex hormone levels, which may trigger nervous system dysfunction that can impair sexual function.
By improving awareness of the link between thyroid disease and sexual dysfunction, physicians may sooner be able to remedy a patient's sexual symptoms by treating an underlying thyroid condition.
There may be other causes of sexual dysfunction like heart disease or diabetes.
Trouble growing facial hair
Losing hair on your head, face, and body is a common symptom of hypothyroidism. According to a study published in the International Journal of Trichology, it is well-known that thyroid hormones are essential for the development and maintenance of the hair follicle.
What this means is that hair loss, hair thinning, or even brittle nails could be due to a slower turnover of cells and reduced blood. So, that bald spot on your beard? Perhaps it's a result of too little thyroid hormone production.
Ultimately, while women are five to eight times more likely to suffer from thyroid issues, men still struggle with hypothyroidism. If you notice the presence of multiple symptoms of underactive thyroid, be sure to talk to your doctor to get to the root.
Fill out this questionnaire to determine how many hypothyroidism symptoms you have:
The good news? Hypothyroidism is easily treatable in almost everyone.
Optimizing your thyroid levels with medication is usually the first step in minimizing symptoms. When choosing thyroid medication with your doctor, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment.
Beyond taking thyroid hormone, you can support your thyroid with nutrition and lifestyle modifications. Talk to a doctor who can assess your symptoms, history, and lab results to determine the best treatment plan for you.
In any case, you are not alone. Other men struggle on this same path toward health and well-being. At Paloma, we want to support you in your journey to feel better - faster.