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Hypothyroidism

Is Hypothyroidism Serious?

Last updated on:
21/04/2013

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

The presence and severity of symptoms are different for different persons. Although many symptoms of hypothyroidism cause distress, most are not dangerous themselves.

Indeed, proper diagnosis may be delayed or missed in older adults because the symptoms are considered "just part of getting old." An individual may not seek help until tiredness, impaired memory, or other symptoms have affected daily living so much that a family member or friend asks them to see a doctor. Others may go to a doctor only when physical changes such as dry, flaking skin and facial puffiness have become obvious.

Need To Know:

Untreated hypothyroidism can have serious consequences over the long term:

  • It may result in severe depression and, over a period of time, mental and behavioral impairment.
  • The most severe form of hypothyroidism is myxedema, which is characterized by swelling of the face, tissue around the eyes, hands, and feet. Left untreated, this may progress to even more severe symptoms of hypothermia, which is a severe drop in body temperature, seizures and ultimately coma and death.

This need never occur with proper treatment.

The good news is that treatment is simple, and the symptoms almost always resolve with treatment. Persons generally feel much better, more alert, and "back to being their old selves."

The other major factor to consider in assessing how serious hypothyroidism is in any given individual is the presence (and, if so, severity) of associated health conditions.

 
 
 

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.