Thyroid disease is becoming more and more common, especially in the US. Approximately 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder, and a majority of the time it is undiagnosed. Women tend to be more susceptible to thyroid conditions – up to 10 times more so than men.
The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that makes thyroid hormone, which is responsible for regulating a majority of cells in the body. If the thyroid is producing too little or too much thyroid hormone, even a small change in amounts can cause symptoms that can effect daily living. In general, having too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) causes your body’s metabolism to slow down, while having too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) causes your body’s metabolism to speed up.
Because thyroid hormone affects so many different cells in the body, diagnosing a thyroid condition can be difficult as symptoms can often mimic other conditions. Luckily, thyroid hormone can be easily checked by your doctor, and diagnosis is increasing. For those that may feel like something may be off, but are unsure of what might be causing it, here are the top symptoms of a malfunctioning thyroid:
Fatigue is the top symptom of having too little thyroid hormone. Fatigue can be caused by many things including sleep disturbances, stress, or other more complicated diseases. If you have trouble waking up in the morning, or you feel sluggish and tired during the day and you have been worked up for other conditions that may be causing it, you may want to get your thyroid hormone checked. This feeling of fatigue is generally the “I can’t drag myself out of bed” feeling despite a good night’s sleep, and can severely affect activities during the day. This is also one of the main symptoms monitored once medication is administered.
2. Anxiety and Restlessness
Anxiety and restlessness is the main symptom for having too much thyroid hormone. This can produce a jittery feeling, as if you had too much coffee. People with overactive thyroids can have shaky hands or tremors, and can have difficulty relaxing or feeling calm. Your heart beat may speed up, and symptoms can sometimes mimic a panic attack. If these symptoms are predominant, you should get checked out by your doctor.
3. Weight Gain or Loss
If you feel as if you are gaining weight and can’t get it off, or if you just can’t seem to put weight on, the thyroid may be to blame. Too little thyroid hormone will slow down the body’s metabolism and cause weight gain, often despite healthy eating and exercising. Too much thyroid hormone will speed up the metabolism and make it difficult to gain weight, since your’e naturally burning so many calories. Sudden weight gain or loss should always warrant a check up with your doctor.
4. Hair Thinning or Falling Out
With too little thyroid hormone, the hair on your head can become brittle, start to thin, or fall out. The typical pattern for hypothyroidism is thinning on the outside of your eyebrows. Too much thyroid hormone can also cause some hair thinning, though in a different pattern than (and not as much) as too little.
5. Swelling or Enlargement in the Neck
When the thyroid gland is not producing the right amount of thyroid, signals from the brain try to tell the gland to either make more hormone or make less. If the gland is not working right, these signals cause it to try to work harder than it’s capable of doing, and so the cells in the gland grow bigger, even if they are not working better. This causes what’s called a “goiter,” which essentially means an enlargement of the thyroid gland. This can feel like the neck is swollen and puffy. It can sometimes be tender but often has no pain associated at all. All enlargements or swelling in the neck should be checked out by your doctor.
6. Mood Changes
Thyroid hormone also effects the chemicals in our body that are responsible for our moods and emotions. When thyroid hormone is low, people commonly feel sad or depressed, and can often have difficulty feeling like themselves emotionally. Too much thyroid hormone can give you a “hyper” type of feeling – which creates anxiety, anger, frustration or other emotions that are excitable in nature. Of course, all marked changes in mood should be worked up by your doctor.
7. Skin Changes
Hypothyroidism will often cause changes in the skin. The skin can become dry and sometimes itchy, and can flake off, especially in the hands and feet. This usually occurs regardless of how much moisturizing cream you apply to the skin. Nails can also change and become more brittle with prominent ridges.
8. High Blood Pressure
Hyperthyroidism can cause an increase in blood pressure. Usually the blood pressure will start to rise slowly over a couple of years, and can be difficult to change with medications. All high blood pressure should be monitored by your doctor, and other causes will likely need to be ruled out.
9. Changes in Bowel Movements
Low thyroid hormone can slow down bowel movements and digestion in general. People that are hypothyroid will often have constipation, or they can feel full or bloated after meals. Too much thyroid hormone can have an opposite effect. Bowel movements are often frequent and loose, or there can be an increase in diarrhea.
One of the main functions of thyroid hormone is to control body temperature. When the thyroid hormone is low, you can feel very cold despite being in warm environments. If you have too much thyroid hormone, the opposite is true – you will often feel hot, even when others are cold. Temperature change is very common when the thyroid is imbalanced, and can be a huge source of discomfort for sufferers. This is not a symptom to be overlooked!
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should get checked out by your doctor. Thyroid disorders need to be managed under the careful eye of a doctor and are not to be taken lightly. Our physicians are highly trained in managing thyroid conditions. If you think that you may have a thyroid disorder or would like to get your thyroid hormone levels checked, call our office today to schedule an appointment!
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