The thyroid gland is an endocrine organ found on the front side of the neck that has numerous important bodily functions including regulation of metabolism, influence over cardiovascular activity and in younger people impact on development. Hypothyroidism is a state in which the thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone. Symptoms of hypothyroidism vary widely but can include high blood pressure, slow heart rate, goiter, puffiness around the eyes, dry or coarse skin, thinning of the hair, cold sensitivity, fatigue, weight gain, impaired cognition and depressed mood. Currently, there is no recommendation to screen the general population for hypothyroidism, however, if symptoms arise, it is prudent to consider investigating thyroid function which involves blood tests. Should the thyroid prove to be underactive, the treatment is thyroid hormone supplementation frequently with a medication such as levothyroxine which is needed lifelong. In rare cases, hypothyroidism can lead to a life threatening condition known as myxedema coma that requires hospitalization.
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