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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).

Departments and programs that treat this condition