What is Myxedema Coma?

Myxedema coma is a loss of brain function as a result of severe, longstanding low level of thyroid hormone in the blood (hypothyroidism). Myxedema coma is considered a life-threatening complication of hypothyroidism and represents the far more serious side of the spectrum of thyroid disease.

Who is affected by myxedema?

Myxedema coma is not common, but tends to be seen more frequently in elderly patients and in women. There is an increased incidence in the winter months, which is likely secondary to the extremes in temperature. Myxedema coma can actually result in death. Fortunately, the condition is rare.

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

Before a patient develops myxedema coma, features of hypothyroidism are usually present and may have gone unsuspected for a long period of time.

These symptoms include:

mental impairment,
cold intolerance,
dry skin,
weight gain,
change in menstrual cycles,

Advanced symptoms of myxedema?

severe mental changes including hallucinations, disorientation, seizures, and ultimately, deep coma
significant swelling (edema) all over the body with swollen eyes and thickening of the tongue,
sparse, dry hair, and loss of the outer thirds of the eyebrows;
difficulty breathing;
collections of fluid around the lungs and heart (pleural effusion and pericardial effusions);
the heart may slow down and its ability to pump blood forward can be impaired;
the gastrointestinal tract does not function well and sometimes it becomes paralyzed, thereby necessitating surgery; and
blood test abnormalities are a result of the increased fluid in the body. For example, sodium levels drop because of dilution, which is caused by the body retaining extra water.

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