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Hypothyroidism Causes

Any condition or problem that affects the thyroid, pituitary gland, hypothalamus, or the chemical messengers between these systems can cause hypothyroidism. While some people are born with an underactive thyroid, in other cases, the cause is due to medications, surgery, or too much or too little iodine. Based on the gland that is affected, a person's hypothyroidism is characterized as primary, secondary, or tertiary.

What Causes Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism can be caused by anything that affects the thyroid gland, pituitary gland, hypothalamus, or the messengers that communicate between these glands. Most often, the issue is with the thyroid itself (this is known as primary hypothyroidism).
 
If the problem is with the pituitary gland, it is known as secondary hypothyroidism. Tertiary hypothyroidism is diagnosed when the problem is with the hypothalamus.
 
In about 95 percent of cases, hypothyroidism is the result of a problem within the thyroid itself (primary hypothyroidism).
 

Specific Causes of Primary Hypothyroidism

Some possible hypothyroidism causes that are attributable to problems with the thyroid gland include:
 
  • Hashimoto's thyroiditis
  • Surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid gland
  • Radiation treatment of the thyroid
  • Thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland)
  • Congenital hypothyroidism (hypothyroidism that is present at birth)
  • Certain medications
  • Iodine deficiency or excess.
     
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
Hashimoto's thyroiditis, also called chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis or chronic autoimmune thyroiditis, is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. This is a type of autoimmune thyroid disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland.
 
The thyroid helps set the rate of metabolism, which is the rate at which the body uses energy. Hashimoto's stops the gland from making enough thyroid hormones for the body to work the way it should. It is more common in older women. It is also the most common cause of hypothyroidism in children, being diagnosed as early as one year of age.
 
There is some evidence that Hashimoto's thyroiditis can have a hereditary link. Thus, if autoimmune diseases in general run in your family, you are at a higher risk of developing one yourself.
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