Hypothyroidism is a decreased activity of the thyroid gland which may affect all body functions. The rate of metabolism slows causing mental and physical sluggishness. The most severe form of hypothyroidism is myxedema, a medical emergency. Hypothyroidism can be caused by a problem with the thyroid itself (primary), or by the malfunction of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus (secondary).
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.