Hypothyroidism, also called underactive thyroid or low thyroid, is a disorder of the endocrine system in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. It can cause a number of symptoms, such as poor ability to tolerate cold, a feeling of tiredness, constipation, depression, and weight gain. Occasionally there may be swelling of the front part of the neck due to goiter. Untreated hypothyroidism during pregnancy can lead to delays in growth and intellectual development in the baby or cretinism.
Worldwide, too little iodine in the diet is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. In countries with enough iodine in the diet, the most common cause of hypothyroidism is the autoimmune condition Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Less common causes include: previous treatment with radioactive iodine, injury to the hypothalamus or the anterior pituitary gland, certain medications, a lack of a functioning thyroid at birth, or previous thyroid surgery. The diagnosis of hypothyroidism, when suspected, can be confirmed with blood tests measuring thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine levels.
Salt iodization has prevented hypothyroidism in many populations. Hypothyroidism can be treated with levothyroxine. The dose is adjusted according to symptoms and normalization of the thyroxine and TSH levels. Thyroid medication is safe in pregnancy. While a certain amount of dietary iodine is important, excessive amounts can worsen certain types of hypothyroidism.
Worldwide about one billion people are estimated to be iodine deficient; however, it is unknown how often this results in hypothyroidism. In the United States, hypothyroidism occurs in 0.3–0.4% of people. Subclinical hypothyroidism, a milder form of hypothyroidism characterized by normal thyroxine levels and an elevated TSH level, is thought to occur in 4.3–8.5% of people in the United States. Hypothyroidism is more common in women than men. People over the age of 60 are more commonly affected. Dogs are also known to develop hypothyroidism and in rare cases cats and horses. The word "hypothyroidism" is from Greek hypo- meaning "reduced", thyreos for "shield", and eidos for "form."