The thyroid gland, which forms part of the endocrine system, is a large ductless gland located at the front of the neck just below Adam’s apple. It is butterfly shaped, having two lobes connected by an isthmus. The gland secretes hormones that aid our bodies in various processes. The hormones that are majorly produced are thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).
These hormones aid the body in various functions which include: heat production, fertility, growth, immune regulation in the ileum and the whole of the small intestine, and much more. Majorly, their primary function is in regulating metabolic processes and protein synthesis. Our focus in this article, however, is on the dangers of low triiodothyronine (T3).
Triiodothyronine (T3) is the most important of the thyroid hormones. It is produced when the hypothalamus senses low levels of thyroid hormone in the body and thus releasing thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH then stimulates the thyroid gland to produce T4 and T3. T4 is a precursor of T3 which is converted to its active form in various organs.
T3 exists in two forms, bound and unbound. Bound T3 is referred to as bound because it is bound to globulins which carry the thyroid hormones. Unbound T3, usually called free T3, is the one that is free of globulins and essentially available to exert the effects of the hormone. If T4 is insufficiently converted to T3 or most of the T3 is bound to globulins, then the effects of low thyroid T3, referred to as hypothyroidism, manifest.
Some of the dangers of low thyroid T3 include:
1. Heart Disease
Thyroid hormone plays a vital role in the healthy working of the heart. This is because the biologically active T3 is responsible for maintaining a normal heart rate, which affects the amount of blood pumped by the heart. They are also responsible for relaxing the muscles of the blood vessels that ensure the normal and smooth flow of blood through them.
A deviation from this can lead to high blood pressure, a lower heart rate of fewer than 60 beats per minute, an increased stiffness of the blood vessels, and overworking of the heart. Individuals who suffer from this condition are three times more likely to develop hypertension.
All these conditions are fatal in the long run and therefore a matter of concern. In addition to all that, thyroid hormone T3 plays an important role in keeping blood lipid levels in check. Low levels of T3 can result in increased levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is the bad cholesterol, triglycerides, and total cholesterol which contribute to heart diseases.
Not only does low T3 increase LDL, but also oxidized LDL whose effects are far worse. This will lead to heart failure, heart attack, stroke, and eventually death. This is because it can affect heart muscle contractions and eventually increases the risk of heart failure in patients suffering from heart related complications.
2. Mood Swings
One of the dangers of low thyroid T3 is mood swings. As per the report submitted at the 54th annual meeting of SNM, the researchers were able to show that low levels of thyroid hormone lead to regional metabolic changes in the thalamus. This essentially means that individuals that suffer from low T3 have a reduced metabolism in areas of the brain responsible for processing information.
This leads to snappiness or short-tempers, sleeping difficulties, and depression. Some of the mental health issues that arise due to this condition include short-term memory lapses, lack of interest, and difficulty in concentrating. These mental and behavioral impairments can eventually lead to dementia. It is not fully understood whether with treatment, the problems of mental concentration and memory lapses can be completely reversed.
However, most doctors believe that only the changes that occur during birth are almost always irreversible. As for the other cases, effort is still being put to determine whether changes can be achieved.
3. Dry Brittle Hair And Dry Skin
It is known that low thyroid hormones expose one to faster aging. Lines appear on your skin earlier and wrinkle. These changes usually appear earlier than usual and are more visible.
Your nails also become brittle and are prone to breaking while your hair becomes dry, brittle, and chances of it splitting increase. In some cases, there may be an excessive loss of hair from the scalp and the eyebrows become thinner than usual.
4. Sensitivity To Cold
One of the major functions of the thyroid hormone T3 is in regulating metabolism for virtually all organs in our bodies. When the levels are okay, they increase body metabolism, which in turn translates to energy and body heat. Low levels of T3 result in the body being unable to regulate the rate of metabolism, which may lead to cold intolerance or sensitivity.
5. Problems In Losing Weight
It is usually a daunting task for individuals suffering from low T3 to maintain a healthy weight or better yet to lose weight. This occurs due to having a reduced basal metabolic rate (BMR) since, as we are fully aware, the thyroid hormones are responsible for maintaining the metabolic rate.
Weight gain due to this condition is somewhat proportional to the advancement of the condition. The lower the levels of T3, the more one tends to add weight. Weight gain associated with low levels of T3 is not as simple as it may seem.
This is because the weight gained is not necessarily from accumulation of fat but also the accumulation of salt and water. One might add approximately 5-10 pounds depending on the severity of the condition.
Free T3 is the most active form of the thyroid hormone. Low levels of T3 have been associated with infertility issues. A pregnant woman who has low levels of T3 is four times more likely to experience a miscarriage. In addition to this, the fetus development may also be impaired.
Women who develop low T3 almost at the time of delivery are usually in danger of developing high blood pressure and may give birth prematurely. This also affects women at their prime ages since it also interferes with the menstrual cycle, which can lead to their inability to ovulate.
7. Effects In Children
Children born to women who suffer from untreated low levels of T3 are also affected. Although the studies in this aspect are not very clear, there have been reports the children usually suffer from mental conditions.
This includes mental impairment, lack of concentration, and verbal impairments to some extent. In addition to this, the children usually have been reported to having low IQ levels, while in other cases there are usually no difficulties of any manner.
Infants born with this condition should be attended to immediately in terms of medical care to avert the effects that may arise in the absence of treatment. This may include mental retardation and stunted growth.
This infant may suffer a loss in IQ during development if left untreated. The downside, however, is that despite early initiation of treatment, these children still suffer from mild problems such as failed attention, difficulties in processing information at faster rates, and short-term memory lapses.
For children that develop this condition after infancy (2 years and above), the problem of mental retardation is not a threat. However, they may experience stunted growth and development. This may manifest in a delay in the growth of milk teeth. For those that fail to obtain medical care, the effects of slow learning and difficulties in paying attention may arise that usually progress into adulthood.
8. Increased LDL
One of the dangers of lowT3 is the increased levels of low-density lipoprotein. LDL is known as the ‘bad cholesterol’ since it lines the blood vessels, which predisposes individuals to arteriosclerosis.
Not only do the LDL level rise, but also the levels of total cholesterol, triglyceride, and other fat molecules. All this predisposes individuals to coronary heart disease that is usually fatal.
9. Myxedema Coma
This is a rare condition, but a life-threatening complication of untreated low levels of T3. It has a number of symptoms including low body temperature, slow heart rate, reduced lung function, constipation, urine retention, seizures, stupor, and finally coma.
10. Suppurative Thyroiditis
This is a life-threatening condition that involves the infection of the thyroid gland. It is a rare condition since the thyroid is usually very much resistant to infection. When it happens, however, it is an emergency case and warrants immediate medical attention. It usually occurs in patients suffering from hypothyroidism, T3 being one of the thyroid hormones. It often begins with an upper respiratory infection.
Low Thyroid T3 Dangers Conclusion
It is clear now that the thyroid hormone T3 has many functions apart from the most known ones of regulating body metabolism and protein synthesis. The list above describes a number of the risks or dangers associated with low T3 levels, though not exhaustively.
It is therefore very important to practice healthy living that keeps at bay such conditions for our own sake and for the sake of our loved ones. If you suspect that you may have such a condition, it is vital to see a doctor as soon as possible so that you can get the medical help available. There are diagnostic tests available to conclusively determine this.