19 Thyroid Disease Symptoms You Should Get Checked Out ASAP
A thyroid disorder epidemic?
Your thyroid—a small gland in your neck—has a huge impact on your body. It produces thyroid hormone (TH), which is responsible for keeping your metabolism, heartbeat, temperature, mood, and more, in check. An underactive thyroid doesn't produce enough TH, and that can cause a host of health problems. Watch the video for the warning signs.
Feeling tired and having no energy are issues associated with lots of conditions, but they're strongly linked with hypothyroidism, the disorder that's the result of too little thyroid hormone. If you're still tired in the morning or all day after a full night's sleep, that's a clue that your thyroid may be underactive. Too little thyroid hormone coursing through your bloodstream and cells means your muscles aren't getting that get-going signal. “Fatigue is the number one symptom I see,” says Dr. Miller. “It’s the kind of fatigue where you’re still tired in the morning after a full night’s sleep—that’s a clue that you’re not simply sleep deprived; your thyroid may be underactive.”
You're feeling down
Feeling unusually depressed or sad can also be a symptom of hypothyroidism. Why? It's thought that the production of too little thyroid hormone can have an impact on levels of "feel good" serotonin in the brain. With an underactive thyroid turning other body systems down to "low," it's not surprising that your mood might sink there, too.
You feel jittery and anxious
Anxiety and "feeling wired" are associated with hyperthyroidism, when the thyroid gland is making too much thyroid hormone. Flooded with consistent "all systems go" messages, your metabolism and whole body may spin into overdrive. If you feel like you just can't relax, your thyroid may be "hyper."
Your appetite or taste buds are altered
Thyroid problems can be helped by what you eat.
Your brain feels fuzzy
Sure, it could be caused by sleep deprivation or aging, but cognitive functioning can take a hit when your thyroid is out of whack. Too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) can cause difficulty concentrating and too little (hypothyroidism) may cause forgetfulness and general brain fog. “When we treat patients for hypothyroidism, they are often surprised at how fast their brain fog goes away and how much sharper they feel,” Dr. Miller says. “Many women think it’s just something that comes along with menopause when it really is a sign of a thyroid problem.”
You've lost your interest in sex
Having little or no desire in the sack could be a side effect of a thyroid disorder. Too little thyroid hormone could be a contributor to a low libido, but the cumulative impact of other hypothyroidism symptoms—weight gain, low energy, and body aches and pains—could also play a part.
You're feeling all fluttery
That fluttery feeling you're having may be heart palpitations. It can feel like your heart is actually fluttering or skipping a beat or two, or beating too hard or too quickly. You may notice these feelings in your chest or at pulse points in your throat or neck. Heart flutters or palpitations can be a sign of too many thyroid hormones flooding your system (hyperthyroidism).
Your skin is dry
Skin that's dry and itchy can be a symptom of hypothyroidism. The change in skin texture and appearance is probably due to slowed metabolism (caused by too little thyroid hormone production), which can reduce sweating. Skin without enough moisture can quickly become dry and flaky. Likewise, nails can become brittle and may develop ridges.
Your bowels are unpredictable
- People with hypothyroidism sometimes complain of constipation. The disruption in hormone production has likely caused a slowdown of digestive processes.
- “There’s just no motility in your gut,” Dr. Miller says. “This is one of the top three most common symptoms of hypothyroidism I see.”
- On the reverse side of the spectrum, an overactive thyroid gland can cause diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements, which is why they're symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Your periods have changed
To learn clever tips for quelling your PMS, watch this video to learn five ways to ditch your symptoms, naturally.
You have painful extremities or muscles
Sometimes you stub a toe or work out too hard—that kind of pain can be explained away. But if you have mysterious or sudden tingling or numbness—or actual pain—in your arms, legs, feet, or hands, that could be a sign of hypothyroidism. Over time, producing too little thyroid hormone can damage the nerves that send signals from your brain and spinal cord throughout your body. The result is those "unexplained" tingles and twinges.
You have high blood pressure
How's your cholesterol these days? If you’re not sure, you’re not alone.
Your thermostat is on the fritz
Feeling cold or having chills is associated with hypothyroidism. The system slow-down caused by an underactive thyroid means less energy is being burned by cells. Less energy equals less heat.
On the other hand, an overactive thyroid puts energy-producing cells into overdrive. That's why people with hyperthyroidism sometimes feel too warm or sweat profusely.
You're hoarse or your neck feels funny
- A change in your voice or a lump in your throat could be a sign of a thyroid disorder. One way to check is to take a good look at your neck to see if you can detect any signs of thyroid swelling. You can do a physical check of your own thyroid at home with these directions from The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists:
- Using a hand mirror, watch your throat as you swallow a drink of water. You're looking for any bulges or protrusions in the thyroid area, which is below your Adam's apple but above your collarbones. You may want to try this several times to get a hang of where your thyroid really is. If you see anything that's lumpy or suspicious, see your doctor.
Your sleep schedule is messed up
Insufficient sleep is linked to a host of health problems, from depression to cardiovascular disease. Make sure you're falling asleep quickly so you can get a good night's rest. Watch this video for six simple tricks to avoid insomnia.
You've gained weight
- Going up a few dress sizes can be caused by so many things that it's unlikely your doctor will look at weight gain alone as a potential thyroid disorder symptom. However, weight gain is one of the top reasons women show up in Dr. Miller’s office for a thyroid checkup. “They’ll tell me that they aren’t eating any more than usual, but they’re gaining weight,” she says. “They are exercising, but they are getting nowhere. They can’t lose it.” It’s almost always due to an underactive thyroid, she says.
- On the other end of the scale, a sudden weight loss can signal hyperthyroidism.
Your hair is thinning or falling out
If you’re shedding more than normal, don’t freak out. Hair loss among women can happen for a variety of reasons–it can be a natural consequence of childbirth or overusing hair products. Watch the video to learn why your hair might be thinning.
You have trouble getting pregnant
Starting to think about having a family? Or not thinking about it at all, and want some reassurance that you have plenty of time? Watch this video to learn about your body’s signs about your fertility.
You have high cholesterol
One in every four deaths in the U.S. is due to heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—in other words, taking care of this all-important organ should be a top priority for everyone. But how do you know if you’re at risk for heart disease? It all comes back to seven critical numbers that can serve as major clues to your health.
Get your thyroid tested
If you have one or more of these symptoms and suspect it's your thyroid, see your doctor and ask for a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test, Free T3, and Free T4 tests, says Dr. Miller. Based on test results, your symptoms, and your physical exam, you may be prescribed synthetic hormones. Testing and treating a thyroid disorder takes a bit of trial-and-error so expect to visit the doctor a few times before the dosage is right.
And during testing and exploring treatment options, expect to have to be your own advocate when it comes to your thyroid. Some doctors may be resistant to a thyroid diagnosis, although the American Associated of Clinical Endocrinologists narrowed the TSH range for acceptable thyroid function from 0.5-5.0 to 0.3-3.04 in 2003. That means more women fall into a range that can be treated. “Find a doctor who treats the person, not just the lab tests,” says Dr. Miller. “If you’re feeling better at a certain dosage—that should carry just as much weight as the lab results.”
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