What is the thyroid?
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland situated at the base of the front of your neck. Hormones released by this gland travel through the bloodstream and affect almost every part of the body – from the heart and brain to the muscles, skin and sex organs. The thyroid also controls how the body’s cells use energy obtained from food, the process known as metabolism.
Hypothyroidism, commonly known as an underactive thyroid is a very common disease, which happens when the thyroid does not make enough of the thyroid hormones. An underactive thyroid can turn your health upside down and needs to be diagnosed by a doctor.
What are the symptoms of an underactive thyroid?
The symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the condition. The symptoms usually start off slowly, such as fatigue and weight gain. However, at first, you may hardly notice a change, but as your metabolism continues to slow, other more obvious symptoms may develop.
Hypothyroidism can include some of these signs and symptoms:
- Continuous fatigue and tiredness
- Hoarseness and a puffy face
- Depression and anxiety
- Thinning hair
- Impaired short-term memory
- Changes in the menstrual system
- Unusual weight gain
If you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms, visit your doctor for a thyroid test.
Heart disease risks
An underactive thyroid may also be related to an increased risk of heart disease. This is because hypothyroidism can cause high levels of LDL – the “bad” cholesterol. Elevated LDL can deposit plaque in the arteries which impede blood flow to parts of the body. The risk of developing high blood pressure is also raised, causing other problems related to the cardiovascular system. Untreated, an underactive thyroid can raise your risk of a heart attack, heart failure, or even a debilitating stroke. To protect your heart, hypothyroidism needs medical intervention.
How your sexuality may be affected by an underactive thyroid
The connection between low thyroid levels and sexual dysfunction has been well established by research. Here are some of the issues you might experience:
- A very low sex drive
- Both men and women may have difficulty getting aroused
- Vaginal dryness makes intercourse painful for women and men
- An inability to orgasm, and delayed ejaculation
- Pain during and after sex
These symptoms are more often experienced by people who have severe fatigue, muscle pain, or depression. Medication to restore thyroid hormones can help with these conditions. However, it is important to note that the meds take about 3 months to kick in before you feel any real difference.
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