Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey, who is know for struggle with hypthyroidism, speaks on stage during a tribute to Nelson Mandela at the 45th NAACP Image Awards in Pasadena, California, Feb. 22, 2014. Reuters/Danny Moloshok

Hypothyroidism is a common disorder in which the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormones required for the body. The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front lower part of the neck, plays an important role in regulating the body’s metabolism, heart, brain, reproductive system, kidneys among others.

About 4.6 percent of people aged 12 and older in the U.S. have hypothyroidism — meaning every five out of 100 people have the condition, according to National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

Read: Fukushima Nuclear Radiation Causing More Cases Of Thyroid Cancer

Compared to men, women are at more risk of developing hypothyroidism.

“Hypothyroidism can contribute to high cholesterol, so people with high cholesterol should be tested for hypothyroidism. Rarely, severe, untreated hypothyroidism may lead to myxedema coma, an extreme form of hypothyroidism in which the body’s functions slow to the point that it becomes life threatening. Myxedema coma requires immediate medical treatment,” NIDDK stated on its website.

According to WebMD, the most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid gland.

“Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder. With Hashimoto’s, your body produces antibodies that attack and destroy the thyroid gland. Thyroiditis may also be caused by a viral infection,” according to WebMD.

Apart from Hashimoto’s disease, following are other causes of hypothyroidism:

  • Hypothyroidism that is present at birth
  • Surgical removal of thyroid gland or a part of it
  • Radiation treatment of the thyroid

Following are symptoms of the condition:

  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Dry or flaky skin
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Increased blood cholesterol level
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in joints
  • Heavier than usual or irregular menstrual periods
  • Thinning hair
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory
  • Blurry vision

Read: Fukushima Nuclear Radiation Caused Thyroid Cancer In 4-Year-Old

Common treatment for hypothyroidism is daily intake of thyroid tablets, which are prescribed to restore the hormone level and tackle the symptoms associated with the condition. Once the treatment has started, results can be seen in a couple of weeks. The medication also reduces cholesterol levels which are increased by the disease gradually.

“Although most doctors recommend synthetic thyroxine, natural extracts containing thyroid hormone derived from the thyroid glands of pigs are available. These products contain both thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Synthetic thyroid medications contain thyroxine only, and the triiodothyronine your body needs is derived from the thyroxine,” according to Mayo Clinic.