• Consumer Health: What is hypothyroidism?

a close-up of an older woman, holding a cup in her hands, looking concerned, smiling tentatively and looking straight into the camera

Are you over 60, feeling fatigued and slowly gaining weight? These may be subtle signs of hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid.

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck. With hypothyroidism, your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough of certain crucial hormones. As a result, hypothyroidism affects all aspects of your metabolism and influences the control of vital functions, such as body temperature and heart rate.

Hypothyroidism may not cause noticeable symptoms in the early stages. Over time, untreated hypothyroidism can cause a number of health problems, such as obesity, joint pain, heart disease, goiter and peripheral neuropathy.

The good news is that accurate thyroid function tests are available to diagnose hypothyroidism. And treatment with synthetic thyroid hormone usually is simple, safe and effective once you and your health care provider find the dose that's right for you.

Here's what you need to know about hypothyroidism.

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