Before we define subclinical hypothyroidism, let’s discuss hypothyroidism in general: when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce adequate quantities of thyroid hormones, a condition called hypothyroidism is developed. In most cases iodine deficiency is what leads to the development of this condition, but can also be induced by exposure to Iodine-131 or lithium-based synthetic pills; postpartum thyroiditis and sporadic inheritance are also believed to result in hypothyroidism, while the ingestion of large quantities of iodine can lead to temporary hypothyroidism.
What is subclinical hypothyroidism?
Since hypothyroidism is often asymptomatic, medical specialists have developed certain tests that help them diagnose the condition. In the cases of hypothyroidism, the levels of thyrotropin (TSH) are high, while the triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) levels are low. In the case of subclinical hypothyroidism, the TSH levels are high, but the T3 and T4 levels are normal. In other words, the subclinical hypothyroidism’s patients have thyroid glands that produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormone, but this is due to the pituitary gland working “overtime” in order to aid the normal functioning of the thyroid gland.
What are the symptoms of subclinical hypothyroidism?
In the cases of clinical hypothyroidism the symptoms are often clear and manifest themselves as fatigue, constipation, puffy face, dry skin, weight gain, high cholesterol levels, muscle aches, and others. However, in the case of subclinical hypothyroidism the symptoms are fewer or completely absent.
Subclinical hypothyroidism is diagnosed with the help of laboratory test, which measure the thyrotropin, triiodothyronine, and thyroxine levels; similar home tests also exist and although we don’t have a reason to doubt their accuracy, it is always advisable to get tested in a medical laboratory rather than at home.
In many countries thyroid screening tests are done to pregnant women and studies have confirmed that females that have elevated TSH level, but normal T3 and T4 levels have pregnancies that are complicated by placental abruption and also are two-fold more likely to give pre-term birth. However, the American college of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not recommend subclinical hypothyroidism treatment during pregnancy.
And when it comes to treatments, the doctors are divided and the debates are ongoing – some doctors claim that subclinical hypothyroidism patients should be only monitored and treated when and if the subclinical hypothyroidism progresses to clinical hypothyroidism; other medical professionals start treating these patients as soon as they are diagnosed with the same methods and medication that they use to treat patients suffering from clinical hypothyroidism. The main reason for treating or monitoring subclinical hypothyroidism is the fact that there is great chance that it can get transformed in clinical hypothyroidism and cause even further complications like increased risk of cardiovascular disease and hyperlipidemia.
If you experience sudden and unexplained weight gain, fatigue, depression, muscle cramps, joint pain, and other similar signs and symptoms, you might be suffering from hypothyroidism – consult with your health care provider and follow his or her recommendations. Once you are properly diagnosed, you will be subjected to treatments that are usually very effective, safe, and will help you manage your condition.