Risk Factors of Hypothyroidism
Could you be at risk of becoming hypothyroid?
If you're concerned about your risk of developing hypothyroidism, there are two main factors to consider—age and sex. Your chances of being hypothyroid increase with age, and they are greater if you're a woman.
Hypothyroidism occurs primarily in women older than 50.
Hypothyroidism is when your body doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone. Since the main purpose of thyroid hormone is to run the body's metabolism, people with hypothyroidism will have symptoms associated with a slow metabolism.
Besides age and sex, your risk for hypothyroidism is increased if:
- You have a family history of thyroid disease or any autoimmune disease
- You have type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, or other autoimmune disorders
- You have taken anti-thyroid medications (a treatment for hyperthyroidism) or have been treated with radioactive iodine (a treatment for thyroid cancer)
- You have had thyroid surgery (you had your thyroid removed to treat thyroid cancer or to treat a symptomatic goiter)
- You have been exposed to radiation to your neck or upper chest area
Why it is important to know about your potential risks
Understanding your risk factors is important because it will help your doctor determine your need to be screened for hypothyroidism. Regular screenings are your best ally in diagnosing hypothyroidism early on. But even if you have multiple risk factors, it does not guarantee that you will develop hypothyroidism. Conversely, not having any risk factors won't protect you from the disorder.
If left untreated, hypothyroidism can progress and cause a multitude of complications. Understanding the symptoms of hypothyroidism and getting regular screenings to ensure an early diagnosis will help prevent the onset of the complications.
- ATA Hypothyroidism Web Booklet. American Thyroid Association Web site. Available at: http://thyroid.org/patients/brochures/Hypothyroidism%20_web_booklet.pdf. Accessed June 9, 2009.
- Mayo Clinic Hypothyroidism Risk Factors page. Mayo Clinic Health Information Web site. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hypothyroidism/DS00353/DSECTION=risk-factors. Accessed June 9, 2009.
- Skugor, M. The Underactive Thyroid: Hypothyroidism. In: The Cleveland Clinic Gide to Thyroid Disorders. New York: Kaplan Publishing; 2009:21.