Last Updated on September 5, 2023
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located in the front of the neck region. It stands as a vital component of the endocrine system as it is responsible for major bodily functions. The thyroid gland releases thyroid hormones that help in the seamless functioning of the body. In cases when the thyroid gland is unable to secrete thyroid hormone in adequate amounts, the body undergoes some changes like reduced bowel movements, weight gain, lethargy, etc. This can impact one’s quality of life and may be considered a disability to function normally. This condition where the thyroid hormone is present in low quantities or is absent altogether is known as Hypothyroidism.
Continue reading this blog to learn more about the intricate web of hypothyroidism’s impact on health, grasp the intricacies of its underlying causes, and gain insights into the most frequently asked query — “Is hypothyroidism genetic?”
Understanding the Function of the Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland makes and secretes thyroid hormones. Some of the major hormones include:
- Thyroxine (T4): This is the principal hormone produced and released by the thyroid gland. Although the thyroid gland produces the majority of this hormone, it has little effect on your metabolism. When your thyroid releases T4 into your bloodstream, it can be converted to T3 by a process known as deiodination.
- Triiodothyronine (T3): Although your thyroid generates less T3 than T4, it has a considerably greater impact on your metabolism than T4.
- Reverse triiodothyronine (RT3): Your thyroid produces a trace quantity of RT3, which counteracts the effects of T3.
- Calcitonin: This hormone aids in the regulation of calcium levels in the blood.
The Warning Signs: Is Hypothyroidism Genetic?
Since the thyroid gland is majorly responsible for all bodily functions, it is important to look out for warning signs such as:
- Slow or fast heart rate
- Weight loss or growth that is not explained
- Inability to tolerate cold or heat
- Anxiety or depression
- Menstrual cycles that are irregular
- Dry skin and hair
How does the Thyroid Gland interact with other Organs & Glands?
The thyroid gland is almost always working with other glands and organs to maintain the optimal functioning of the body. Some of these include:
- Cardiovascular System: The thyroid gland is responsible for maintaining the heart rate, blood flow to the heart and heart contractions.
- Nervous System: If the thyroid gland is not functioning properly, it leads to issues like numbness, tingling, and a sense of burning in certain areas of the body.
- Digestive System: It controls gastrointestinal motility.
- Reproductive System: In case of improper functioning of thyroid gland, a woman may experience irregular periods, and issues with fertility.
Is Hypothyroidism a Genetic Disorder?
The question often arises: is hypothyroidism genetic? This query stems from a common perception that thyroid disorders are frequently linked to genetics. While this notion holds some truth, the relationship between genetics and thyroid issues is more intricate. Having a first-degree familial connection to individuals with thyroid disorders does indeed elevate the risk of developing thyroid-related problems. While environmental factors can also play a role, research suggests that a predisposition to hypothyroidism can be passed down through families.
Is Hypothyroidism Genetic or Environmental?
Hypothyroidism is influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. While genetics play a role, they are not the sole determinants of whether an individual will develop hypothyroidism. Genetics is just one element of the puzzle.
Environmental factors such as diet, exposure to toxins, lifestyle choices, and even autoimmune conditions can trigger or exacerbate thyroid problems. For instance, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder that commonly leads to hypothyroidism, has a genetic component but is also strongly influenced by environmental triggers.
The interplay between genetics and the environment is complicated. It’s crucial to understand that while a genetic predisposition might heighten the risk, it doesn’t guarantee the development of hypothyroidism. Similarly, lacking a family history of thyroid disorders doesn’t entirely eliminate the possibility of experiencing thyroid-related issues.
Examples of some of the Environmental Factors responsible for causing Hypothyroidism:
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Exposure to toxins
- Certain foods
The Diagnostic Process: Is Hypothyroidism Genetic?
Usually, the doctor runs a blood test to check the levels of thyroid secreting hormone (TSH), T3 and T4. If the levels of TSH is higher and T4 is low, then it is hypothyroidism. However, if TSH is high and T3, and T4 are within normal range, the diagnosis is of subclinical hypothyroidism.
Management of Hypothyroidism
Depending on the cause of hypothyroidism, the doctor recommends the best possible treatment option. One of the common management options includes medications.
Taking levothyroxine helps return the hormone level within normal range and eliminates the symptoms of hypothyroidism. It is important to note that the consumption of thyroid medication may be lifelong. The doctor would prescribe the dosage according to the severity of the symptoms the individual is experiencing. Levothyroxine generally does not cause any adverse effects but in case you notice changes in your body, do consult your practitioner.
The thyroid medication is usually taken on an empty stomach, every day and a gap of 30 to 60 minutes is advised before eating or taking any other medication.
Additionally, there may be some foods, supplements, and medicines that can hamper the absorption of thyroid hormone. It is important to discuss all your concerns and symptoms with your doctor so that a comprehensive treatment plan can be tailored for you.
The answer to the question, “Is hypothyroidism genetic or environmental?” depends on whether there is any family history of thyroid disorders. However, the development of the condition is also influenced by environmental factors and individual health choices. This highlights the importance of a comprehensive approach to managing thyroid health, understanding the difference between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, including regular screenings, a balanced lifestyle, and open communication with healthcare professionals.