Tell-tale Signs of Thyroid Disease

The Thyroid – Your Master Gland of Metabolism

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck, and it represents the master gland of your metabolism. It produces an important body chemical known as the thyroid hormone. This hormone regulates many bodily functions, including temperature maintenance, the body’s systemic metabolism and importantly, your heartbeat.

When your thyroid doesn’t function properly, every aspect of your health is affected. Overproduction or underproduction of the thyroid hormone may lead to thyroid disease that can cause weight gain or loss, lack of energy and depression.

Undiagnosed thyroid problems can increase the risks of obesity, depression, anxiety, heart disease, hair loss, infertility, sexual dysfunction, and many other conditions. To be more aware if you have a problem with your thyroid, it is best to know the common signs of thyroid disease.

 

Common Signs of Thyroid Malfunction

As we mentioned, the thyroid can either have an overproduction or underproduction of the hormone. The most common signs of thyroid disease are:

Fatigue
Feeling tired all the time, even after having a 10-hour sleep, and having little to no energy during your regular waking hours, are issues often associated with many different conditions. However, this can be strongly related with hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is a disorder that is caused by reduced thyroid hormone production in the body. If you feel exhausted far too often than usual, this may be a sign that your thyroid is underactive. Fatigue is the number one symptom of thyroid disease.

Depression and Anxiety
Low thyroid levels are typically associated with depression. Conversely, feelings of anxiety or panic attacks can be linked to excessively high thyroid levels in the body. If you suffer from depression, and you don’t respond to antidepressants, then there is a high probability you have undiagnosed thyroid hormone imbalance.

Fertility Problems and Menstrual Irregularities
Painful and long menstrual periods, with heavier flow than usual, can be closely associated to a thyroid function disorder – hypothyroidism. On the other hand, infrequent and lighter menstrual flow is often a sign of its counterpart – hyperthyroidism. In hyperthyroidism, your menstrual period may become shorter, farther apart and very light. It is best therefore to observe your menstrual flow consistency (heavy or light), its monthly frequency (shorter or longer periods) and any atypical sensations you may experience.

Fuzzy Brain
Cognitive functions can also be affected by the presence of a thyroid disease. Too much thyroid hormone production can cause difficulties in every day concentration, while too little of it may cause frequent forgetfulness and general brain fog. Brain fogginess is a summation of the feelings of confusion, lack of focus and lack of mental clarity; hence, you may experience difficulty and frustration going through your everyday tasks.

Weight changes

Too much thyroid hormone can make you feel hungry all the time. This condition may cause you to have unpredicted blasts of increased appetite; and even if you keep on eating to satisfy your hunger pangs, it won’t result to gaining weight. This increase in appetite leading to increased food intake, but not gaining weight, is a sign of hyperthyroidism. On the other hand, hypothyroidism can result in the difficulty of losing weight amidst your efforts of taking in low-fat and low-calorie diet. No matter how strict you follow your diet plan, you are still unable to lose a single pound.

Constipation or Diarrhea
Long-term constipation is often a sign of low thyroid levels. Under normal conditions, the body needs the thyroid hormone for the digestive muscles to contract and move. This action allows for the normal excretory processes in the digestive tract to happen. When thyroid hormone level is low, this causes the muscles of the digestive tract to be sluggish or slow in action. In the long run, this causes constipation as our body’s wastes are not released timely and correctly.

Irritable bowel syndrome or diarrhea, on the other hand, can be linked with too much thyroid production. Over activity of the digestive tract muscles, due to the increased levels of the hormone causes the small and large intestines to over react and thereby cause excessive release of body waste.

Dry Skin and Hair Loss

Hair and skin are very sensitive to thyroid level changes. Hair loss is often linked with the thyroid disease. Hair texture becomes coarse and dry when thyroid levels drop too low; that is why hair falls and breaks easily. Similarly, when your skin is dry and itchy, this can be a symptom of hypothyroidism. This is because low levels of the thyroid hormone slows down your metabolism and changes your skin texture and appearance. It can reduce sweating that can lead to making the skin dry quickly and become flaky. Additionally, nails may also become brittle too.

Muscle weakness and pain
If you feel aches in your muscles and joints, followed by unexplained weakness in arms and legs, this could be a sign of thyroid disease.

Problems with Cholesterol
High cholesterol in the blood, which doesn’t respond to any diet, medications or exercise, is a very common sign of low thyroid levels. On the contrary, low cholesterol levels may be linked to high thyroid hormone production.

 

Health Insight

Being more aware of the effects of thyroid hormone imbalance helps us to think back and look closer as to how often or not, these symptoms have shown itself to us in our daily lives. Most often, these symptoms may have been existing, yet are ignored for the longest time. Only when we can no longer tolerate the effects of these imbalances do we give it a check or give it time to really know what lies behind.  Thyroid conditions effect women more the men.

 

Since correct diagnosis is essential, of whether hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism is present, it is still best to reach out and talk to the right health care provider who can give you the correct initial assessment of your symptoms. It is important to know that thyroid conditions effect women more the men.

Thyroid conditions also need laboratory testing for a diagnosis.

Once that is established, the correct evaluative tests, the right clinical interpretation of the results along with the appropriate medical intervention, if need be, can be implemented. As a general rule however, it is still best to take action now through meaningful lifestyle changes, in order to prevent health complications and to get used to these adjustment so that in the long run, living a healthy lifestyle become effortless.

References:
Office on Women’s health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/thyroid-disease.html

Genesys Medical Institute 
http://www.genesysinstitute.com/thyroid-trouble-the-tell-tale-signs/

JAMA. 2004 Jan 14;291(2):228-38.
Subclinical thyroid disease: scientific review and guidelines for diagnosis and management.
Surks MI1, Ortiz E, Daniels GH, Sawin CT, Col NF, Cobin RH, Franklyn JA, Hershman JM, Burman KD, Denke MA, Gorman C, Cooper RS, Weissman NJ.

Climacteric. 2013 Oct;16(5):555-60. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2012.717995. Epub 2012 Oct 1.
Comparison of the symptoms of menopause and symptoms of thyroid disease in Japanese women aged 35-59 years.Oi N1, Ohi K.

Br Med Bull. 2011;99:39-51. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldr030.
The epidemiology of thyroid disease.
Vanderpump MP1.

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