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Hypothyroidism, often called underactive thyroid, is a condition caused by too little thyroid hormone.

Thyroid hormone comes from the thyroid gland, a small butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. Too little thyroid hormone causes many body functions to slow down.

The most common cause of hypothyroidism is called Hashimoto’s disease. In Hashimoto’s disease, the immune system accidently damages the thyroid gland for reasons that are not well understood.

Hypothyroidism: what you should know

  • Hypothyroidism in infants can cause severe mental and physical disabilities. For this reason, all newborn babies in the U.S. are routinely tested.
  • Hypothyroidism symptoms include the following:
    • Feeling tired
    • Low energy
    • Depression
    • Weight gain
    • Constipation
    • Feeling cold
    • Muscle aches
    • Dry skin
    • Hair breaking

How can I get help for hypothyroidism?

See your primary care doctor if you have hypothyroidism symptoms. If you have hypothyroidism, your doctor will refer you to an endocrinologist, a hormone specialist.

To diagnose you, your doctor will perform a physical exam and order blood tests. The most common blood test is called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). People with hypothyroidism usually have an abnormally high TSH level. TSH usually goes the opposite direction to thyroid hormone (when thyroid hormone levels are low, TSH is usually high).

Care for people with hypothyroidism at Rush

Your endocrinologist will usually prescribe thyroid hormone medication for you to take every day. This medication is a pill that is very easy to take.

Your symptoms will begin to improve after a few weeks on the medication. You need to continue taking this medication so that your symptoms don’t return.

Your doctor will monitor your hormone levels to make sure they are normal. If your hormone levels change, your doctor will adjust your medication.

Why choose Rush for hypothyroidism care

  • The endocrinology team at Rush includes nationally recognized experts in the care of thyroid disease, including members of the American Thyroid Association who helped write the guidelines for care of hypothyroidism.
  • Rush scientists are world leaders in the study of how thyroid hormone works in individual organs.

Departments and programs that treat this condition