A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Fatigue, weight gain? Hypothyroidism may be to blame

Senior woman getting a throat exam - Thyroid surgery

Hypothyroidism is more common in women. It may cause weight gain and fatigue, but is very treatable.

If you’re feeling tired all the time for no apparent reason and you’re gaining weight, you could possibly have hypothyroidism.

More common in women than men, hypothyroidism is caused by an under-performing thyroid gland.

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck. Its job is to make thyroid hormones that control the rate of many activities in your body. These include how fast you burn calories and how fast your heart beats.

Metabolism to blame?

Those types of actions constitute your body’s metabolism. So, if you hear people complaining about their metabolism being too slow, they just might be right. Their thyroid glands may not be making enough thyroid hormone to meet their needs. Fortunately, a simple blood test can determine your thyroid hormone levels.

There is no consensus on if or when this test should be used to screen for hypothyroidism. The test is typically ordered only when there is some indication for it, such as fatigue or a family history of the disease.

“This is a very common disease,” said Dr. Shankar Bettadahalli, a Marshfield Clinic Health System endocrinologist.  “Your primary care provider, such as an internal medicine or family medicine specialist, can treat most cases of hypothyroidism.”

More complex cases, which are very rare, are referred to an endocrinologist who has additional training and experience in treating them, Bettadahalli said.

Treatment is safe, effective

The standard of care for hypothyroidism is a synthetic hormone taken daily in pill form.

“This is one of the safest medications we have. It’s been used for decades and has a large safety record,” Bettadahalli said. “It’s also one of the few medications considered very safe for pregnant women.”

If you suspect hypothyroidism may be causing your fatigue or weight gain, contact your personal physician.

Hypothyroidism symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Family history
  • Weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Cold intolerance
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Dry, thinning hair
  • Decreased sweating
  • Heavy or irregular menstrual periods and fertility problems
  • Depression
  • Slowed heart rate

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