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Myxedema: Wikis


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Classification and external resources

Hyaluronan, an example of a mucopolysaccharide.
ICD-10 E03.9
ICD-9 244.9
DiseasesDB 6558
MedlinePlus 000353
eMedicine med/1581 derm/347
MeSH D009230

Hypothyroid type myxedema (British English: myxoedema) describes a specific form of cutaneous and dermal non-pitting edema secondary to increased deposition of connective tissue matrix components (like glycosaminoglycan, hyaluronic acid, and other mucopolysaccharides). In Graves' disease the myxedema is secondary to lymphocytic infiltrate and secondary swelling from inflammatory reactions and is typically located in the periorbital tissues, extraocular muscles, and in the lower legs, mostly below the knee (pretibial myxedema).[1]:535 While both hyper- and hypo- thyroidism have forms of myxedema their etiologies are pathophysiologically distinct.



The word originates from μύξα, taken from ancient Greek to convey 'mucus' or 'slimy substance' and ὁίδημα for swelling. Myxedema is also a clinical state that is intermediate between cretinism of children and hypothyroidism of adults. Clinical features of myxedema are characterized by a slowing of physical and mental activity. Symptoms include depression, mental sluggishness, listlessness, cold intolerance, obesity, constipation and decreased sweating secondary to decreased sympathetic nervous system output, and also reduced cardiac output that contributes to shortness of breath and exercise intolerance. [2]

The term can be a cause for confusion but it should not be confused with a form of myxedema seen in Graves' disease and hyperthyroid states which does not include the mental sluggishness and listless state of the aforementioned hypothyroid myxedema. In the context of hyperthyroidism, pretibial myxedema typically presents in the lower limb (below the knee) and periorbital myxedema leads to the exophthalmos (bulging eyes), both of which include autoimmune mechanisms and T cells that are not a contributing factor in hypothyroid myxedema.



  • The skin in hypothyroidism is cool and dry. Normally, the skin contains a variety of proteins complexed with polysaccharides, chondroitin sulfuric acid and hyaluronic acid. In hypothyroidism, these complexes accumulate, promoting sodium and water retention and producing a characteristic diffuse, non-pitting puffiness of the skin (myxedema). The person's face appears puffy, with coarse features. Similar accumulation of mucopolysaccharides in the larynx may lead to hoarseness. The hair is brittle and lacking luster, and there is frequently loss of body hair, particularly over the scalp and lateral thirds of the eyebrows. If the thyroid hormone is replaced therapeutically, the protein complexes are mobilized and a diuresis ensues and the myxedema resolves. Carotenemia (yellow-orange skin) can occur because thyroid hormone is needed by the liver to convert carotene to vitamin A. In the absence of sufficient hormone, carotene accumulates in the bloodstream and skin.
  • In long-standing hypothyroidism a condition called myxedema coma may occur. Patients have typical myxedematous facies and skin, bradycardia, hypothermia, alveolar hypoventilation and severe obtundation or coma. This condition is usually precipitated by an intercurrent illness such as an infection or stroke or by a medication such as a sedative-hypnotic. The mortality rate approaches 100% unless myxedema coma is recognized and treated promptly.[3]

Hashimoto's thyroiditis is the most common cause of myxedema in the United States[4]. In third world countries iodine deficiency is a significant contributor to hypothyroidism.

See also


  1. ^ James, William D.; Berger, Timothy G.; et al. (2006). Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: clinical Dermatology. Saunders Elsevier. ISBN 0-7216-2921-0. 
  2. ^ Pathological Basis of Disease, 8th Ed. Robbins and Contran, 2010. ISBN: 978 1 4377 0792 2
  3. ^ Pathophysiology of Diseae, An Introduction to Clinical Medicine. Stephen McpPhee and William Ganong
  4. ^ "Hasihimotos Thyroiditis", Retrieved on 2009-3-27


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