Myxedema coma

Myxedema coma is a rare condition requiring emergency care that can occur in a person who has untreated, severe hypothyroidism. It usually occurs in older adults who have other illnesses, such as a serious infection or heart attack, in addition to their hypothyroidism.

The following life-threatening symptoms may occur:

  • Mental deterioration such as apathy, confusion, and psychosis
  • Extremely low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • Extremely slow heartbeat (fewer than 60 beats per minute)
  • Heart failure
  • Respiratory failure

Death can occur if myxedema coma is not treated. Emergency treatment may include thyroid replacement given in a vein (intravenously) and steroid therapy.

Last Updated: August 25, 2008

Author: Caroline Rea, RN, BS, MS

Medical Review: Caroline S. Rhoads, MD - Internal Medicine & Matthew I. Kim, MD - Endocrinology & Metabolism

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