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The thyroid gland releases all-important hormones called thyroxine, calcitonin, and triiodothyronine. Through these hormones, the thyroid gland regulates most organs in the body. As a result, it controls body functions like the digestive system, heartbeats, and more.
When the body does not produce enough thyroid hormones, it affects the body’s natural functions, and the system begins to slow down. Hypothyroidism occurs when there are insufficient thyroid hormones, and the body does not respond as it should. But can hypothyroidism cause acne?
Can Hypothyroidism Cause Acne?
Your thyroid health affects different aspects of your physiology, including your skin health. Hormonal acne is generally attributed to an imbalance in certain hormones like progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone.
However, although they seem to be the common culprits, hypothyroidism can also cause acne. This is because hypothyroidism influences insulin levels, which in turn influences testosterone production.
When there is excess testosterone production, it causes acne. Apart from this, hypothyroidism causes low progesterone, which also causes high estrogen levels. These two factors are two leading acne causes. Hence, it is safe to say that hypothyroidism does cause acne. But that isn’t all.
The thyroid is part of the endocrine system and is located in the neck. The endocrine system is a complex gland system that introduces hormones into the circulatory system to control and regulate metabolism and other body functions.
Apart from acne, thyroid dysfunction affects the overall health too and is the underlying cause of most acne breakouts. Since it influences hormone production and other numerous functions, it should not be a surprise that it causes acne.
A study conducted by the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology found a link between acne and autoimmune thyroid disorder regardless of age. Since keeping healthy skin is one way to avoid acne, whatever fails to help keep healthy skin ultimately contributes to acne.
People with hypothyroidism find it challenging to maintain healthy skin than those without the disorder. This is because poor thyroid function slows cellular activities and prevents the transportation of oxygen. When less oxygen and blood are delivered to the skin cells, the skin won’t regenerate as it should.
Not just this, but it also prevents the removal of dead skin cells. By implication, although there will be minor health skin cell regeneration, there is a higher chance of the old ones blocking the pores and increasing the risk of inflammation.
The thyroid also regulates the production of hormones responsible for converting cholesterol into progesterone. When thyroid activities are low, the body tends to suffer from progesterone deficiency. When this happens, estrogen activities are left unchecked, and this promotes oily skin and ultimately breakout. So, yes. Hypothyroidism can cause acne.
Can Thyroid Problems Cause Pimples?
The narrative for pimples is the same as acne. Since thyroid regulates hormone production, when it is underactive, it causes progesterone deficiency. Not only this, but it also causes estrogen dominance. When there is excess estrogen, it prompts the oil glands to produce more oil to lubricate the body. When there is too much oil than is needed, it can clog the pores with dead skin cells and attract bacteria. The reaction irritates the skin and causes swelling; hence, pimples.
So, like acne, thyroid problems do cause pimples.
Related post: Acne Vs Pimples: Is There A Difference?
Can Hypothyroidism Cause Skin Problems?
Thyroid related problems can occur when the levels are either too low or high. The skin cells regenerate with time to keep your skin looking fresh and healthy. However, when the cells lose signals from the thyroid hormones, it breaks the normal skin renewal cycle.
As a result, it can cause the skin to take a longer time to regrow. By implication, it means the outer skin layer will be around for more than it should, accumulating damages in the process. It will also be longer to shed the dead skin and can lead to dry or flaky skin.
In a study involving 74% of individuals with low-thyroid and dry skin, 50% of participants with hypothyroidism noted that their skin got worse in the last year. In essence, skin changes that cannot be linked to allergies or new products can signify thyroid problems.
Hypothyroidism is also caused by myxedema, an autoimmune disease that causes swelling and redness of the skin.
Like the skin cells, the hair follicles are also regulated by thyroid hormones. Since the follicles also have stem cells that ensure regeneration, they are sensitive to thyroid levels. Hypothyroidism can cause hair patchiness or coarseness. It can also lead to acnes and weakness in the joints and muscles.
Hypothyroidism can flip metabolism towards catabolism. During this process, the muscle strength decreases and causes weakness. The process of muscle tissue breakdown can also cause aching and muscle cramps.
Not just this, but it also causes you to feel worn out and tired. Since the thyroid hormone controls energy balance, low levels can make you feel sluggish and exhausted. It can also cause unrest and make you feel sleepy. When thyroid activities leave you drained and exhausted; it ultimately affects your skin health.
What Are The Early Warning Signs Of Thyroid Problems?
When the thyroid does not produce enough hormones, it affects chemical balance and upsets the body. Although different factors cause it, the symptoms vary in individuals.
For example, hypothyroidism in infants is different from hypothyroidism in adults. Babies, sometimes, are born without the thyroid gland or with one that does not work correctly. Some of the early warning signs in newborns include difficulty breathing, jaundice, difficulty breathing, and hoarse crying. As the condition progresses, a baby will likely have difficulty feeding and growing naturally. In this case, they may experience poor muscle tone, excessive sleepiness, and constipation.
Apart from infants, children and teenagers may also experience poor mental development, poor growth, and delayed puberty – due to hypothyroidism. The general warning signs of hypothyroidism include:
- Dry skin and puffy face
- Weight gain
- Increased cold sensitivity
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Muscle ache, stiffness, and tenderness
- Swelling, stiffness, and pain in your joints
- Slowed heart rate and depression
- Hoarseness and thinning hair
- Heavier and irregular menstrual periods
- Enlarged thyroid glands
Can You Suddenly Develop Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid fails to produce enough hormones. However, it is not a condition that you can develop suddenly. The risk of developing hypothyroidism is greater if you are:
- A woman
- Older than 60 yrs
- Thyroid disease runs in the family
- If you have a history of autoimmune diseases like celiac disease or diabetes
- Have received radiation to your upper chest or neck or had thyroid surgery
All the causatives that are responsible for hypothyroidism can eminently cause acne too. Some of the causes of hypothyroidism include:
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the commonest cause of hypothyroidism. The autoimmune disorder occurs when the antibodies produced by the immune system turn and attack your tissues, including the thyroid glands.
Although environmental triggers and the genes usually cause it, it does happen and affects how the thyroid produces hormones. Hashimoto’s flare-up is caused by certain medications, supplements, nutrients, and stress. However, when it happens, it can prevent the thyroid from producing enough thyroid hormones.
Several studies have shown that people with such autoimmune disorders suffer from skin problems, including acne.
Response To Hyperthyroidism Treatment:
Hypothyroidism treatments are given to people who produce excess thyroid hormone. Also known as hyperthyroidism, people with this condition are treated with antithyroid medications or radioactive iodine.
Although the treatment goal is to restore thyroid functions to normal, correcting hyperthyroidism can lower thyroid levels in excess and cause hypothyroidism. Hence, although well-meaning, correcting hyperthyroidism can cause hypothyroidism.
Medications And Therapies:
Thyroid surgery involves removing a large portion or all of the thyroid gland. However, it can affect hormone production. Not only this, but radiation therapy used for treating cancers of the neck and head can also affect the thyroid gland and cause hypothyroidism.
It is common to see people developing acne when starting a new medication or therapy. Hence, when you want to start a medication, you should ask your doctor about its effects on the thyroid glands.
Congenital Disease And Pituitary Disorder:
Although uncommon, babies can sometimes be born with no thyroid gland or a defective one. For unknown reasons, the gland may not develop as it should, or it could be that the baby inherited the disorder from a parent. Babies with congenital hypothyroidism look normal at birth, but the condition is revealed with thyroid screening.
The pituitary gland is sometimes called the master gland of the body, and it’s failure is another rare cause of hypothyroidism. When there is a benign tumor in the pituitary gland, it often prevents the gland from producing enough thyroid-stimulating hormones.
Some women develop hypothyroidism during or after pregnancy due to the antibodies produced by the thyroid gland. However, if left untreated, it can raise blood pressure during the last pregnancy stage or increase miscarriage risk. It can also affect the fetus and cause a congenital disorder.
Related post: Acne Before And After Pregnancy: Causes, Treatment, Tips
Mineral iodine found in foods and plants is essential to the thyroid hormones. However, iodine imbalance can cause hypothyroidism. For example, insufficient iodine can cause hypothyroidism, and excess iodine can worsen it in people who already have it.
The thyroid is responsible for different workings of organs in the body. However, it is not without its ailments. And those ailments can eminently cause acne too, as we just saw.
Luckily, hypothyroidism can be treated. We recommend you speak to your doctor if you suspect hypothyroidism as the cause of your acne.
In this series:
- Can Niacinamide Cause Acne? What You Need To Know
- Can Nuts Cause Acne? What You Need To Know
- Can Retinol Cause Acne? What You Need To Know
- Can Birth Control Cause Acne?