How Do Hormones Effect Your Body

Hormones are very potent substances. Even in very small amounts they can have a profound effect on the body. Consequently, the body exercises tight control over the amounts of hormones it produces. This is accomplished by several different mechanisms.

First is the pituitary gland which produces hormones that regulate other glands. By increasing or decreasing the amount of these regulatory hormones, the pituitary can control the function of the glands. For example, thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) increases the activity of the thyroid gland, causing it to manufacture and release more thyroid hormone. More TSH will stimulate the thyroid gland into greater activity, while small amounts of TSH will slow the thyroid down.

The pituitary gland itself is under the regulation of another gland – the hypothalamus. In the case of the thyroid, the hypothalamus manufactures a substance called thyrotropin realeasing hormone (TRH), which regulates the production of TSH by the pituitary. So TRH stimulates the pituitary, which releases TSH, which in turn stimulates the thyroid gland.

There are similar regulating substances that the hypothalamus uses to control pituitary function with respect to other glands. In the case of estrogen and progesterone (and testosterone in men), this substance is called gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH).

The hypothalamus is under the direct control of the brain. In fact it is a part of the brain that specializes in endocrine function. Thus, the brain and the nervous system are ultimately in control of hormone release and production. This is why your mental and emotional state can have a strong effect on hormone balance and metabolism.

In addition to the brain, each hormone has an ability to regulate its own production. This mechanism is known as negative feedback. Again, I will use the thyroid hormone as an example. As the thyroid hormone is released into the blood, it circulates throughout the body, eventually finding its way to the pituitary and the hypothalamus. Like all the other cells in the body, the cells of these glands have thyroid receptors. As these receptors become more activated, they convey the message that there are increasingly greater amounts of the thyroid hormone present in the circulation. This results in the decreased production of both the TRH and TSH, which leads to lower activity of the thyroid gland.

If the pituitary and hypothalamic receptors do not ‘see’ enough thyroid hormone, a message is sent to produce more TRH and TSH. A similar feedback loop exists for most hormones in the body.

The glands and hormones are programmed to work harmoniously with one another to make sure the body functions properly. In some cases, the hormones or gland do not perform correctly. Thankfully, the medical community has developed therapies and drug treatments to assist with many of these deficiencies and help improve performance of the glands and hormones.

Symptoms Of An Underactive Thyroid

Underactive thyroid (also referred to as hypothyroidism) is a condition that manifests itself as a thyroid gland that does not manufacture enough of certain essential hormones. The thyroid gland plays a critical role in controlling the rate at which the body utilizes energy. It accomplishes this by manufacturing two hormones – thyroxine and triiodothyronine. These hormones govern the rate at which metabolism occurs within individual cells and play important roles in the regulation of body development. Therefore, thyroid problems can bring about a wide variety of symptoms. Keep reading to learn about underactive thyroid symptoms.

Initial Signs and Symptoms of Underactive Thyroid

Two of the initial symptoms of this condition are sluggishness and tiredness, however patients often ignore them. After that come more identifiable symptoms like joint and muscle pain, low cold tolerance, lack of appetite, joint and muscle pain, slow body movement as well as constipation. Some sufferers might notice moderate weight increases. As thyroid hormone levels reduce, the hair and skin tend to become dry, rough and lifeless. Also, women who are in their child bearing age may experience irregular menstrual cycle. In contrast, women who are in the premenopausal age range might experience heavy menstrual cycles.

Later Stage Symptoms

If hypothyroidism is not treated early, the condition will deteriorate further. It might lead to thyroid gland enlargement, which is also referred to as goiter. Also, it can cause a more severe complication called myxedema. This occurs as thyroid hormone levels become very low. At this stage, the symptoms include weakness, puffiness at the face, lack of sensation within the legs and arms, thinning eyebrows, hair loss and voice change.

Several individuals who have advanced hypothyroidism complain about concentration problems and weak memory. The condition also affects the general mental state and might result in depression. Effects of certain medications, injuries and infections are so serious in some underactive thyroid sufferers that it can result in coma. This may cause extremely low body temperature. Certain symptoms are common in elderly patients such as uneasiness, memory loss and hearing loss.

Underactive Thyroid Symptoms In Growing Children

Children and infants also suffer from underactive thyroid. This is why new born children are examined for the condition. If the condition is detected at an early phase, the child can be saved from any abnormal development and growth through proper treatment. Sleepiness, constipation, puffy face, throaty harshness and frequent choking when feeding are some of the early signs of hypothyroidism in babies.

If they do not receive appropriate treatment in time, babies with hypothyroidism may develop protruding abdomens, delayed teething, and dryness of hair and skin. The children may also be too short for their age, have less than normal intelligence, and a puffy appearance. In other words, hypothyroidism can severely affect a child’s normal mental and physical development.

Underactive thyroid symptoms affect millions of individuals in different parts of the world and are particularly prevalent in women. Thus, women should learn all they can about the condition and its symptoms. If a pregnant woman develops this condition during the first three months of pregnancy, she should see her physician right away and undergo therapy for the same, so as to ensure the unborn child has optimum chance of growing and developing normally.

What Are Common Causes of Fatigue

Tired woman in front of laptop computer

Tired woman in front of laptop computer

Fatigue is a feeling of tiredness, exhaustion, or lack of energy. You may feel mildly fatigued because of overwork, poor sleep, worry, boredom, or lack of exercise.

Most causes of fatigue will resolve in time without requiring a visit to the doctor.

Illness such as a cold or the flu, may cause fatigue, which usually resolves over a short period of time as the illness clears up. A stressful emotional situation may also cause fatigue. This type of fatigue usually clears up when the stress is relieved or becomes better controlled.

Many prescription and non-prescription medication can cause weakness or fatigue. These side effects usually resolve after you adjust to taking the medication. This may be seen with almost any drug; however, it is more common with blood pressure medications, and mood altering drugs (sedatives and antidepressants).

The use or abuse of alcohol, caffeine, or illegal drugs can cause fatigue.

A visit to a health professional usually is needed when fatigue occurs along with more serious symptoms such as pain, fever and chills, trouble breathing, abnormal bleeding, or unexplained weight loss or gain.

Fatigue that lasts longer than 1-2 weeks usually requires a visit to a health professional for further evaluation. This type of fatigue may be caused by a more serious health problem. Your physician will probably recommend test to evaluate you for the following potentially serious causes of fatigue:

Anemia

A decrease in the amount of oxygen-carrying substance (hemoglobin) found in red blood cells (anemia). This may occur from blood loss related to intestinal bleeding, menstruation, and trauma. Chronic blood loss can result in iron deficiency which is required for the body to maintain appropriate hemoglobin levels required to carry oxygen. Nutritional deficiencies such as Vitamin B12 and folate can also result in anemia.

Cardiac Problems

If you have problems with the heart, such as coronary artery disease or heart failure, the ability of the heart to supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle and the rest of the body will be impaired. This may result in poor exercise tolerance and fatigue.

A sudden change in your exercise tolerance can be an early sign of heart problems such as coronary artery disease. Approximately one third of patients with underlying heart disease have no signs or symptoms (such as chest pain or myocardial infarction). The first sign of any underlying problem in this one third is sudden death. Therefore, it is imperative that you seek further evaluation if you are noticing increased fatigue that is not easily explained.

Metabolic Disorders

Patients with metabolic disorders, such as diabetes, have impaired ability to utilize sugar (glucose) which is required to form energy for the body and organs.

Thyroid Abnormalities

Abnormalities of the thyroid gland may result in fatigue. It is important to determine if your thyroid gland is performing appropriately. If your gland is underactive you will require thyroid medication to restore your bodies normal levels. This will improve your energy and help with fatigue.

Fatigue may be related to an overactive or high thyroid level (hyperthyroidism). An overactive thyroid requires further evaluation. You may require radioactive ablation to destroy the overactive thyroid tissue. Other options include medication to control the symptoms caused by an overactive thyroid or medication to block the effects of the excess thyroid hormone in your body.

Kidney and Liver Abnormalities

Patients with kidney disease and liver disease have impaired ability to eliminate the waste products of the body. If the level of these chemicals get too high the patient will begin to experience weakness and fatigue.

Chronic Fatigue

Chronic fatigue syndrome is an uncommon cause of severe, persistent fatigue. It is commonly associated with a previous viral infection such as epstein barr virus.

Mental Health Problems

Mental health problems can result in fatigue. Patients suffering from anxiety and depression will frequently complain of fatigue. This is an important consideration if no medical explanation for fatigue can be found. Anxiety and depression can also develop in someone with other chronic health problems, so it is important that a thorough evaluation be performed by your health care provider.

The symptom of fatigue is commonly experienced by all of us during our day to day activities. If your fatigue is not improving with rest, or out of character from what you are accustomed to it is important to seek further medical evaluation by your health care provider.