What is Myxedema?

Myxedema is an ailment that is characterized by a thickened and enlarged skin. The condition is prompted by the reduced production of the thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland. Myxedema is merely brought about by hypothyroidism.

Thyroid gland

Thyroid gland

Thyroid Gland Location n Structures


The primary function of the thyroid gland is to check the rate and level of metabolism. Myxedema is just but one of the many symptoms of a defective thyroid gland.

Hypothyroidism mostly affects women, but a considerable number of male infections have been recorded over the years. Mostly the ailment touches older women. There are a number of causes that are a purported to bring about the condition. These include:

  • Viral infections
  • Side effects of taking certain medications
  • Longtime contact with radioactive materials
  • Generic disarrays
  • Genetically inherited


In the earlier stages, the disease is branded by severe symptoms of distress which are not only distracting but also disturbing. These may range from:

  • Muscle pain
  • Shaking out of cold
  • Feeling fatigued and worn out
  • Constipation
  • Hair loss
  • Melancholy

The condition worsens as it advances bringing about even more intriguing of effects and symptoms.

  • Obesity and increased body weight
  • Swollen feet

Myxedema of Ankles

Swollen Feet – Pretibial Myxedema. Source –

  • Loss of crucial senses; taste and smell
  • Disruption of the menstrual cycle
  • Induced breast milk secretion
  • Muscle spasms
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Reduced sweating
  • Dry and pale skin

As the symptoms of myxedema persist, so do those of underactive thyroid hormones. Due to the imbalanced rate of metabolic activity, such patients tend to suffer from:

  • Increased body weight regardless of calories consumed
  • Amnesia
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Joint and muscle aches
  • Weariness

myxedema pictures facial edema

Image 3: Facial expression of myxedema

Myxedema’s symptoms are sometimes too challenging and in most occasions weigh heavily on the lives and health of the victims. Patients living with the disease have an enlarged skin which appears rough and swollen.

The skin also seems to be dehydrated and deprived of essential nutrients. This is characterized by the change in appearance turning it to a yellow like color to the extremes of orange. The inflamed skin is a result of a layer of jelly substance concealed under some part of the skin.

The symptoms and severity of the condition is characterized differently among diverse patients. The ailment can either be expressed partially or fully. Rarely does the disease affect partially, legs only, but in most cases affect the body as a whole. In such occasions, the symptoms tend to more severe as the inflammation covers a large percentage of the body cover.


Most people tend to ignore the condition, ruling out its severity, but if the condition remains untreated for long time it might become deadly. Long periods of low thyroid hormones may lead to a fatal condition known as Myxedema coma.

Though not common, this advanced stage is more life threatening than the earlier stages. As most of the symptoms of the condition are physical, checking for the disease is done through physical examination while weighing the signs expressed. However, these symptoms change and develop with time and are more scary and severe.

This advanced stage prompts physicians to look for signs such as:

  • Swollen eyelids
  • Inflamed tongue
  • Loss of eyebrows
  • Skin color change
  • Enlarged heart
  • Increased fluid in the lungs (Pleural Effusion)
  • Increased cardio fluid

Image result for myxedema pictures myxedema pictures

Image 4: An advanced case of myxedema (Facial Puffiness)

Differential diagnosis

Before concluding that the condition is solely myxedema and not any other ailment, it must be tested against several other diseases that may be characterized by similar symptoms. The conditions to be differentiated are:

  • Stroke
  • Meningitis
  • Seizures
  • Low adrenaline levels
  • Liver failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Myxedema Treatment

As the condition is brought about by hypothyroidism, curing the disease can only then be addressed by root case. This can only be done by inducing thyroid hormones through medical supplements. Appropriate and coordinated use of these medications help alter and cure the condition completely. Eliminating hypothyroidism is the most crucial of the healing process. However, it is of equal importance to undergo other treatments in order to lessen the effects of the symptoms. These include:

Compression stockings – These help reduce the swollen skin, compressing it to its original nature.

Administering topical corticosteroids – Reduce the inflammation severity.

Thyroid replenishing hormones- This treatment is used to address the symptoms that come with myxedema as well as any underlying issues of hypothyroidism. Despite this method being successful in its control against the ailment, its application must be informed and only applied after deducing the root cause of the disorder. Failure to be aware of the problem could lead to administering of supplemental hormones but no changes are observable. In the long run, this leads to hyperthyroidism, a worse of condition.

Despite thyroid supplementation being recommended, it is a routine the patients have to put up for life as it’s not a curative. However, there are more suitable options to address the disease other than hormone replacement. These are:

  • Swapping of electrolytes
  • IV treatment
  • Glucose intakes. For patients suffering from low levels.
  • Administering steroids

Myxedema Projection

If the condition not attended to, it can develop into fatal stages. Research shows that almost 20% of the reported cases are life threatening and so persons who witness such symptoms should and must not take them lightly.

  • Such deadly signs of the disease are:
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Falling of the body temperature
  • Falling into a coma


In instances where myxedema comes parallel with hypothyroidism, patients may experience even further complications such as:

  • Bareness
  • Cardio failure
  • Miscarriage
  • Osteoporosis (soft and weak bones)
  • Defected births
  • Comas

It is essential to get diagnosed early as well as seek treatment before the condition develops and advances throughout the skin. This creates an opportunity to come up with a treatment procedure that will be effective to combat the ailment.

Myxedema Risk Factors

The degree of occurrence and severity is often escalated by several factors. These factor make persons much vulnerable to the illness. These ranges from:

  • Exposure to chilly conditions
  • Being hooked on to certain medication for a long time
  • Surgical operations
  • Contracted infections


The most ideal manner of dealing with the ailment is doing away with it altogether. This is possible by testing infants for the illness which could prove decisive in averting a crisis of the future.

The best way to manage this disorder is to prevent its occurrence in the first place. Even though there is no specific way to prevent the condition, screening newborns can be effective in diagnosing its early development. Patients with Hypothyroidism should regularly visit their doctor to undergo blood testing and follow-ups to make sure that the replacement dose is suitable.


  1. Hx benefit-
  2. General health-
  3. Test for hypothyroidism-…/myxedema-the-forgotten-test-for-hypothyroidism.
  4. Symptoms of myxedema coma- › … › thyroid center › thyroid az list › myxedema coma article.
  5. Thyroid disorders – › Communities › Thyroid Disorders.


  1. I was reading another doctor’s book on diet for your body type and he says my type could be myxedema so I looked it up. He didn’t go into detail. I’ve been overweight since age 8-9 since being diagnosed with epilepsy. Since then it’s been blood pressure pills, thyroid pills and now after two blood clots, a blood thinner cumadin. The other thing he mentioned was trying an amino acid and fatty acid diet. Amino acids are in red meats, but I have to check the fatty acids part.
    If it’s myxedema something better get done soon if it gets bad fast. I’m tired of these heavy legs and trying to get around.

  2. Trying again to tolerate Levothyroxine which I appear to be allergic to.
    Dreading the battle.
    There are no solutions offered anywhere for those allergic,
    as if they simply do not exist.

    Rock and a hard place (again).

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