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Definition of Myxedema coma

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Myxedema coma: A rare and life-threatening complication of hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormones in the bloodstream) characterized by loss of brain function (coma). Before a patient develops myxedema coma, features of hypothyroidism are usually present and may have gone unsuspected for a long period of time, including fatigue, lethargy, intolerance to cold, mental and mood changes, headaches , depression, weight gain, constipation, and changes in menstrual cycles . When myxedema coma develops, the body temperature is typically abnormally low, and there is diffuse swelling (excess fluid or edema) throughout the body along with the severe changes in brain function.

Myxedema coma is a medical emergency. Treatment typically includes supporting vital body functions such as breathing and circulation, warming to raise the body temperature to normal, and replacing thyroid hormone.

Reviewed on 12/21/2018

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