According to a research, as many as 59 million Americans have thyroid problems, but many people are not even aware of it. Thyroid problems are common including goiter or thyroiditis, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroid nodules, and thyroid cancer. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) are the most common problems and can cause many hormonal, emotional and physical changes in the body. Our thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the center of the neck, which makes thyroid hormones. Although relatively small, it is considered the master gland of metabolism and plays a key role in the functioning of many important organs, including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin. For your body’s overall health, it is essential for the thyroid gland to stay healthy and function properly.
It is important that we know how to recognise the signs and symptoms of impending thyroid problem, to be able to prevent further complications.
1. Change in Body Weight
Either sudden increase or decrease in weight, unexplained, can be a warning sign of a thyroid disorder. Weight gain may indicate low levels of thyroid hormones or hypothyroidism. In contrast, if the thyroid produces more hormones than the body needs, you may experience sudden weight loss. Identify that these change in weight is not due to a change in diet, otherwise, best to consult your physician to check your thyroid.
2. Sudden Hair Loss
Low thyroid hormone levels may disrupt your hair growth cycle and eventually cause more hair loss than the usual hair loss you experience ( which is normal). Another unexpected and unexplained hair loss is often associated with thyroid problems. Hair becomes fry, coarse and brittle plus other than hair loss from the scalp (which can be dry too), it could also be noticed in your eyebrows and other body parts. These are symptoms of hypothyroidism. With hyperthyroidism, one can notice thinning hair just on the head.
3. Skin could be dry or sweaty
The hormones released by our thyroid regulates the functioning of our skin, hence any problem in the thyroid can cause skin problems. When the thyroid hormone levels are low, the skin becomes very dry and pale, plus it could be scaly, wrinkled edematous. Nails can be brittle and thick too. On the other hand, overactive thyroid, our skin tends to become sweaty and itchy, opposite symptoms from hyperthyroid.
4. Muscle and Joint Pain
Unexplained general feeling of weakness your arms and legs, plus aches and pains in the muscles and joints, can all be symptoms of thyroid problems either hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Underactive thyroid can cause muscle weakness and pain, including cramps and stiffness. Other symptoms of hypothyroidism are general joint pain and tendonitis in the arms and legs, carpal tunnel syndrome and tarsal tunnel syndrome.
In contrast, hyperthyroidism may cause muscle weakness and fatigue that may make it difficult for you to climb stairs, hold objects in your hands and reach your arms above your head.
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms and signs, it is time to give your doctor a visit.
5. Bowel-Related Problems
Constipation, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are probably related to an underlying thyroid problem. Thyroid hormones can cause changes in your bowel habits, hence interfere with the body’s ability to digest food and generate waste product. For hpothyroidism – you will experience severe or long-term constipation, while diarrhea or IBS can be a sign of hyperthyroidism. Even if you have adequate fiber and water intake, and these symptoms still persist, it is time give your thyroid a check.
6. Menstrual Problems
Women with thyroid problems can be a cause of early or delayed puberty and menstruation. Also, any change in menstrual patterns or irregular periods can be due to an underlying thyroid problem. Heavier, more frequent, prolonged and more painful periods are usually linked with hypothyroidism. In contrary, shorter, lighter, infrequent or absent periods are linked with overactive thyroid.
If you experience unexplained, sudden or abrupt change in your menstrual cycle, it may be a symptom of a thyroid condition, so consult your gynaecologist.
7. Sudden change in Voice & Discomfort in the Neck
Thyroid problems can cause problems like hoarseness of voice, also snoring and a slight bulge or protrusion in the thyroid area. Plus, as the thyroid is located toward the front of the neck, you may feel pain or discomfort in this area. Neck problems like pain and discomfort can be manifested by swollen and enlarged thyroid. A goiter can be a result of either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
8. Feeling Tired
Feeling always tired or fatigued, exhausted and having little or no energy during the day are common issues often associated with thyroid problems. With this feeling, few people are not able to carry out daily activities without a nap or short breaks. With hyperthyroidism, you may not be able to sleep well at night, leaving you exhausted during the day. With hypothyroidism, you may sleep at night but still feel tired in the morning or even all day.
9. Feeling Too Cold or Hot
A change in the level of the thyroid hormones can disrupt the ability to regulate body temperature. Cold hands and feet, or feeling cold all the time despite being in a warm room, may be due to inactive thyroid. On the other hand, overactive thyroid can prompt excessive sweating and an inability to tolerate heat.
10. Anxiety and Depression
If you have symptoms of depression, anxiety and panic disorder that do not respond to medicines and therapies, they can be signs of an underlying thyroid disorder – hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. While depression is linked with hypothyroidism, anxiety and panic attacks indicate a problem of hyperthyroidism. Reduced thyroid hormone production has a direct impact on the level of “feel good” serotonin in the brain. Due to this, a person may go through mood swings, mild to severe depression, or have panic attacks without any reason.
Although depression or anxiety may indicate thyroid problem, these symptoms alone are does not necessarily mean that we can conclude that you are suffering from a thyroid disorder.