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Causes of Hypothyroidism?

Explore the multifaceted causes of hypothyroidism in this comprehensive guide. From the common culprit of Hashimoto's autoimmune disease to the impacts of thyroid surgery, radiation therapy, and medication, this blog unveils the intricate triggers behind underactive thyroid function. Delve into the influence of congenital issues, pituitary disorders, pregnancy, and iodine deficiency on hypothyroidism. Recognize the diverse pathways that lead to this condition, empowering yourself with knowledge for early detection and effective management of thyroid health.

  • 19 Nov 2023
  • 3 min read


The thyroid, that small butterfly-shaped gland nestled at the base of your neck, plays a vital role in regulating your body's functions. It churns out two critical hormones – thyroxine (T-4) and triiodothyronine (T-3) – influencing various bodily processes. These hormones are the metabolic maestros, governing the usage of fats and carbohydrates, regulating body temperature, impacting heart rate, and orchestrating protein production. However, hypothyroidism ensues when the thyroid gland falls short of producing an adequate quantity of these hormones. This blog delves into the various causes of hypothyroidism, exploring the culprits behind this glandular conundrum.


How is Hypothyroidism Caused?

Hypothyroidism can manifest for many reasons, each with its unique pathway leading to the underproduction of thyroid hormones. Here's an in-depth exploration of the causes of hypothyroidism, highlighting how each one contributes to the condition:

  • Autoimmune Disease - Hashimoto's Disease

The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto's autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system goes haywire and produces antibodies that attack healthy tissues. In the case of Hashimoto's, the immune system sets its sights on the thyroid gland, impeding its ability to produce hormones. The result is a sluggish thyroid, leading to hypothyroidism.

  • Thyroid Surgery

In cases where thyroid surgery becomes necessary, either due to a tumour or other thyroid-related issues, removing all or part of the thyroid gland can severely impact its hormone production capacity. Sometimes, this surgical intervention can render the thyroid entirely incapable of hormone production.

  • Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is a potent weapon against head and neck cancers. However, it's a double-edged sword, as it can inadvertently affect the thyroid gland's function. Exposure to radiation in this area may damage the thyroid, eventually causing hypothyroidism.

  • Thyroiditis

Thyroiditis occurs when the thyroid gland becomes inflamed. This inflammation could result from an infection, an autoimmune disorder, or another medical condition targeting the thyroid. Interestingly, thyroiditis can induce a temporary surge in thyroid activity, termed hyperthyroidism. Eventually, the thyroid becomes underactive, pushing an individual into hypothyroidism.

  • Medications

Several medications can disrupt thyroid function, ultimately causing hypothyroidism. Notable among these is lithium, commonly prescribed for psychiatric disorders. Suppose you're taking medication for any ailment. In that case, it's prudent to consult your healthcare provider regarding its potential impact on your thyroid gland.

  • Problems Present at Birth - Congenital Hypothyroidism

Some infants are born with thyroid glands that don't function properly, while others are born without a thyroid gland. The reasons for these congenital thyroid disorders can be diverse, with many cases remaining unexplained. Fortunately, most states require newborn thyroid screening to detect these issues early, as affected infants may not initially exhibit noticeable symptoms.

  • Pituitary Disorder

Although relatively rare, hypothyroidism can be triggered by a pituitary gland that fails to produce adequate thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Typically, this results from a noncancerous tumour on the pituitary gland. Without TSH, the thyroid receives insufficient stimulation to produce its hormones, leading to hypothyroidism.

  • Pregnancy

Hypothyroidism can develop during or after pregnancy, posing significant risks to the mother and the developing foetus. If left untreated, it can increase the chances of pregnancy loss, premature delivery, and preeclampsia, a condition characterised by elevated blood pressure during the last trimester of pregnancy. Monitoring and managing thyroid health during pregnancy is crucial to ensure a healthy outcome.

  • Iodine Deficiency

Iodine is an essential mineral for thyroid hormone production. It's abundant in seafood, seaweed, plants grown in iodine-rich soil, and iodized salt. However, an absence of iodine in one's diet can lead to hypothyroidism. Conversely, excessive iodine intake can exacerbate hypothyroidism in individuals with the condition. In some parts of the world, iodine deficiency remains a common problem. Still, iodized salt has largely eradicated this issue in the United States.

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Hypothyroidism is a complex condition with many triggers, each causing the thyroid gland to underperform its hormone-producing duties. From autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto's to the consequences of surgery, radiation therapy, and medication, the culprits behind hypothyroidism are diverse. Additionally, congenital issues, pituitary disorders, and even iodine deficiencies can contribute to this condition. Recognizing the underlying cause of hypothyroidism is crucial in determining the appropriate treatment and management strategies.

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