Hypothyroidism is a very serious endocrine disorder. Generally, it happens when the thyroid gland loses its functionality and the ability to release hormones. The acute impairment of the thyroid function, which is associated with providing the body with thyroid hormones, can be acquired and congenital. Congenital deficiency of the thyroid hormones can lead to the development of a severe disease that affects the bone structure and the nervous systems (commonly called cretinism).
According to epidemiological studies, some groups of population exhibit higher prevalence of the cases of hypothyroidism, which in some cases reaches 10-12%. It is important to note two main patterns that are inherent to the disease: frequency of the cases increases with the age of the patients and hypothyroidism symptoms in women occur more frequently than in men. The overall prevalence of hypothyroidism in general population is about 0.2 – 2%. If anyone is exhibiting symptoms of hypothyroidism, they can be either confirmed or disproved by checking the hormone levels. This is especially relevant for women over 40 – the age group where hypothyroidism happens more commonly. On the other hand, if the symptoms are particularly non specific, the definite answer can be obtained with the help of screening. Besides, it is well known that some patients who have hypothyroidism do not complain about any symptoms, so if hypothyroidism is only checked based on the complaints, it is very possible to miss a number of possible cases.
It should be noted that hypothyroidism symptoms in women usually develop over the course of several years. Only a direct effect on the thyroid gland (such as surgery, radioactivity etc) can relatively quickly lead to the development of hypothyroidism. The development and appearance of the signs of hypothyroidism largely depend on the person and his or her surrounding environment. In only about 20% of all the cases the main cause of hypothyroidism is the low content of iodine in the environment. Only a significant iodine deficiency contributes to the disease.