Is Hypothyroidism Genetic?
It is well-established that characteristics or traits like blood type and eye color can be passed down from parents to children via their genes. Similarly, certain diseases and conditions can be transferred genetically from one generation to another. This leads us to the question under the microscope: can Hypothyroidism be inherited? This topic triggers a lot of confusion and needs to be clarified, so let's clear the air once and for all.
What Is Underactive Thyroid Disease
Underactive Thyroid Disease, famously known as Hypothyroidism, is a health condition in which the thyroid gland doesn't produce and supply sufficient thyroid hormones to your bloodstream. Conversely, hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland produces and supplies excess thyroid hormones.
The thyroid gland has the shape of a butterfly and is situated at the front of your throat, sitting below your Adam's apple. It produces the thyroid hormones (Thyroxine and Triiodothyronine) responsible for your body's metabolism or how your body cells use the energy gotten from food.
The activities of the thyroid hormones influence your breathing, brain development, body temperature, heart and nervous system functions, muscle strength, weight, menstrual cycle, cholesterol levels, and many other vital activities.
In Hypothyroidism, metabolism becomes slower, preventing the body from performing at its best level. This happens because the supply of the thyroid hormones in the body is low. Research has shown that about 5% of individuals between 12 and above experience hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism and Genetics
Most individuals who have family members with Hypothyroidism ask questions like: Is Hypothyroidism a genetic trait? Is there a high possibility that I will become hypothyroid if my parents have Hypothyroidism?
The answer is Yes.
Thyroid problems run in families, especially when you have a first-degree relative (father, mother, brother, or sister) who is hypothyroid. With the aid of DNA or genetic sequencing tests, such as Genomelink, you can identify genes of family members that may heighten your possibility of having Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
Other Causes of Hypothyroidism
Apart from Hypothyroidism being genetically passed down from one generation to another, here are the other causes of Hypothyroidism:
- Hashimoto's Thyroiditis or Autoimmune Thyroiditis is the commonest cause of Hypothyroidism.
- Disorder of the hypothalamus
- Pituitary gland disorder or damage
- Iodine deficiency
Who is Most at Risk of Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism affects individuals of different races, ages, ethnicities, and genders. However, some individuals are most at risk of experiencing this thyroid disease. Adults above the age of 60 are liable to develop Hypothyroidism, especially women.
Besides this category of adults, here are a few others who are also prone to Hypothyroidism:
- Women with Turner Syndrome
- Individuals who had thyroid problems like Goiter
- People who had radioactive iodine or surgery to rectify a thyroid problem
- Patients who have Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, Pernicious Anemia, Sjögren's Syndrome, or Celiac disease.
- Individuals who had radiation treatment on the chest, neck, or thyroid
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Many symptoms of Hypothyroidism are similar to that of other health conditions. Therefore, it can easily be mistaken for other diseases.
Some known symptoms in adults include:
- Slow heart rate
- Alarming weight gain
- Goiter (thyroid gland swelling)
- Weakness of muscles
- Memory challenges
- Heightened sensitivity to cold
- Change in the menstrual cycle
- Reduced sex drive
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism in children
Children or teenagers also show similar symptoms to adults. However, there are other symptoms you should look out for. They include:
- Delayed permanent teeth development
- Late puberty
- Slower growth
- Smaller size and height
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism in babies
In many cases, babies who have Hypothyroidism show no symptoms. If they do, some symptoms may include:
- Little or stunted growth
- Hoarse cry
- Discouraging feeding habit
- Continual jaundice
- Umbilical hernia
- Swollen tongue
Remember, these symptoms may occur due to other medical conditions. Therefore, if you or your child has any of the symptoms above, it is only fitting that you seek medical attention or assistance from a healthcare provider. By doing this, you will not only be able to clarify if you have Hypothyroidism or not, but you will also find solutions.
How Doctors Diagnose Hypothyroidism
Doctors refer to your medical history before a physical examination to diagnose Hypothyroidism. However, Hypothyroidism cannot be confirmed based on symptoms displayed, as it can be misjudged for other health conditions. For this reason, doctors may conduct imaging tests and thyroid blood tests to get an accurate diagnosis and determine the cause.
How Doctors Treat Hypothyroidism
If Hypothyroidism is confirmed, the doctors move on to the next line of action, which is medical treatment. They treat Hypothyroidism by providing you with similar hormones to those your thyroid gland fails to produce. This replacement hormone, called Levothyroxine, is the human-made (synthetic) version of the fundamental thyroid hormone, T4 (Thyroxine).
Although it is available as a soft gel capsule and liquid, it is primarily prescribed as a pill to be taken in the morning after breakfast. After 6 or 8 weeks of using the administered medicine, you will take a blood test. This will help your doctor confirm how well you respond to the treatment and verify if you need to adjust the prescription.
Every time the dosage is adjusted, you will take a blood test until your doctor finds a dose that works effectively on you. Once this happens, you will only need to repeat the blood test every six months. After some time, the blood testing will become once a year.
You can control Hypothyroidism if you adhere strictly to the doctor's recommended dosage. Also, do not stop your medicine until you have a conversation with your doctor.
What Happens if You Leave Hypothyroidism Untreated?
Over time, many people have mistaken Hypothyroidism for other health conditions due to the similarity in symptoms. They played down the importance of medical attention because they were ignorant of Hypothyroidism and its effect, leaving the thyroid disease untreated. Untreated Hypothyroidism can lead to some complications.
Disclaimer: The content provided is for educational purposes. It is best to contact your physician for further diagnosis and treatment.