The thyroid gland is located at the base of our neck and is responsible for producing hormones that regulate the metabolism of the body. It is a small butterfly-shaped gland. It is part of the network of glands which are together referred to as the endocrine system. To identify disorders with this gland, a blood test is conducted to measure the level of the thyroid hormone (T4 or thyroxine) and the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
When the thyroid gland is overactive, the condition is referred to as hyperthyroidism, whereas when the thyroid gland is underactive, the condition is referred to as hypothyroidism.
What Is Hypothyroidism?
When the thyroid gland is underactive, enough hormones are not produced. When thyroxine levels are low and TSH levels are high, the condition is determined to be that of hypothyroidism (opposite to the condition of hyperthyroidism).
The pituitary gland is responsible for releasing TSH that in turn stimulates the thyroid gland to produce its hormones. It is said that women are more likely to have thyroid issues when compared to men.
Hypothyroidism is sometimes caused by Hashimoto's disease or when a surgery is performed to remove the thyroid gland. Apart from the blood test, you might also be recommended a thyroid scan by your doctor. In this, a radioactive tracer is used to check how your thyroid is working.
Another similar test is the radioactive iodine uptake test. You will be given radioactive iodine by mouth and then a sensor is used to check how much of the iodine your thyroid is able to take in. The tracer is out of your body once you pass urine.
How Hands Can Indicate The Condition Of Hypothyroidism?
When your hands turn cold, it could be indicating a lack of blood flow. During hypothyroidism, the activity of the thyroid gland is low. This is linked to too much homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid that is associated with the poor flow of blood, stiff vasculature and heart diseases. The reason behind this is that important nutrients that are carried in the blood do not reach the hands and feet.
Wrinkles on hands:
With hypothyroidism, fine lines and wrinkles appear on the skin and are most likely visible on the hands. Underactive thyroid makes you age more rapidly and hence the occurrence of wrinkles is early. Dry skin is also one of the reasons why wrinkles tend to become excessively visible when one has an underactive thyroid gland.
Hypothyroidism makes the skin turn pale and yellow. Sometimes this skin colour may also turn orange. The discolouration is due to the decreased thyroid hormone. The skin can look red and flaky at times. It tends to become irritated and itchy as well. The discolouration is usually seen on the palms of the hands.
Yellowish nails and nail beds:
Apart from the skin being discoloured, hypothyroidism can also make your nails and nail beds turn yellow. The lack of blood flow to the extremities also causes the discolouration of the nails and nail beds.
Brittle nails are excessively dry and break easily. When a person has hypothyroidism, nails not just get discoloured but also turn brittle in nature. They get chipped often. Nails also appear to have the appearance of being peeled off. Lack of blood flow to the extremities is primarily responsible for splitting of the nail bed from the onycholysis (nail plate).
The lack of blood flow to the hands and feet leads to the deterioration of nails. The nails also become susceptible to fungal infections. This disorder is referred to as onychomycosis. Toenails are more prone to this infection. This condition is characterized by hyperkeratosis of the nail bed. This can lead to the detachment of the nail plate from the nail bed. This also causes the yellow discolouration of the nail plate. There is also presence of subungual debris.
When you show signs of hypothyroidism, it is better to consult your healthcare provider at the earliest so that the correct medication and treatment can be provided. It is essential to keep the condition under control so that you do not end up worsening the symptoms associated with an underactive thyroid gland.
Treatment ideally includes the doctor prescribing thyroid hormone pills. The dose needs to be accurate with these pills. Taking too much of it can lead to symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
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