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Complications - Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)

Several complications can occur if you have an underactive thyroid that is not treated.

Heart problems

If you have an untreated underactive thyroid, your risk of developing cardiovascular disease is increased.

This is because having low levels of the hormone thyroxine can lead to increased levels of cholesterol in your blood. High cholesterol can cause fatty deposits to build up in your arteries, restricting the flow of blood.

Contact your doctor if you're being treated for an underactive thyroid and you develop chest pain, so that any problems can be detected and treated, if necessary.


goitre is an abnormal swelling of the thyroid gland that causes a lump to form in the throat. Goitres can develop in people with an underactive thyroid when the body tries to stimulate the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormones.

Pregnancy complications

If an underactive thyroid is not treated during pregnancy, there's a risk of problems occurring. These include:

These problems can usually be avoided with treatment under the guidance of a specialist in hormone disorders (an endocrinologist). Therefore, tell a GP if you have an underactive thyroid and you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant.

Myxoedema coma

In very rare cases, a severe underactive thyroid may lead to a life-threatening condition called myxoedema coma. This is where the thyroid hormone levels become very low, causing symptoms such as confusion, hypothermia and drowsiness.

Myxoedema coma requires emergency treatment in hospital. It's usually treated with thyroid hormone replacement medicine given directly into a vein. In some cases, other treatments such as breathing support, antibiotics and steroid medicine (corticosteroids) are also required.

Page last reviewed: 10 May 2021
Next review due: 10 May 2024