Stronger Link Drawn Between Hypothyroidism, Depression
> 6/6/2007 3:53:55 PM

Scientists have long known of a comorbid relationship between depression and dysfunctions of the thyroid, an endocrine gland in the neck that's responsible for the regulation of bodily functions including the digestion and processing of food and the maintainance of a regular heart rate and overall body temperature. Hypothyroid patients suffer from an under-production of operative hormones within the gland. This chronic malfunction leads to a decreasing metabolism that can, in turn, also contribute to high blood pressure, weight gain and lethargy as the metabolic process slows down. Reports of depression are significantly higher in those suffering from hypothyroid conditions than among the general populace. The latest research further clarifies the disease's status as a predictor of pronounced, long term depression as well as recurring mood swings that can resemble bipolar disorder.

Over or under-production in the thyroid gland can be easily addressed with synthetic hormone therapy. The current study's most significant finding is that, in many cases, symptoms of the resulting depression remain in place well after patients undergo successful hormone treatments. Researchers found that the roots of the unfortunate partnership between thyroid dysfunction and mental illness are changes that the thyroid gland brings upon the thalamus, a sort of neural conduit located at the root of the brain that acts to send information from its varied regions into the cerebral cortex for processing.

Hypothyroidism and its resulting depression are most common among women and the elderly, particularly those whoe've undergone any sort of radiation therapy or have a genetic predisposition to thyroid malfunction. Certain psychotropic medications may also interfere with the gland's functions and create a hypothyroid state. An estimated 27 million Americans currently suffer from either over- or under-production of thyroid hormones, but fewer than half have been diagnosed. Unfortunately, researchers were unable to pinpoint the reason for continuing depressive characteristics in patients who'd already gone through successful hormone therapies. Whether the experiment reached its generous goal of using state of the art imaging techniques to determine "how physical health and mental health are interrelated" is up for debate, but they did further highlight an under-recognized condition. More research is needed to make the public aware that their complementary problems with blood pressure, weight gain, exhaustion and depression may, in fact, be traced back to improper functions within the thyroid gland.

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