Could It Be…Thyroid Disease?

woman with headacheAlways cold or hot? Heart racing a mile a minute? Whether underactive or overactive, thyroid disease symptoms can make your body feel out of whack. Knowing the symptoms can help your doctor diagnose the problem and get you feeling better fast. Do you know what to look for?

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It’s estimated that 59 million Americans have a thyroid problem, but the majority don’t even know it yet. The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, is the master gland of metabolism. When your thyroid doesn’t function, it can affect every aspect of your health, and in particular, weight, depression and energy levels.

Since undiagnosed thyroid problems can dramatically increase your risk of obesity, heart disease, depression, anxiety, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, infertility and a host of other symptoms and health problems, it’s important that you don’t go undiagnosed.

You don’t need to have all of these symptoms in order to have a thyroid problem, but here are some of the most common signs that you may have a thyroid condition:

1. Muscle and Joint Pains, Carpal Tunnel/Tendonitis Problems.

Aches and pains in your muscles and joints, weakness in the arms and a tendency to develop carpal tunnel in the arms/hands and tarsal tunnel in the legs, can all be symptoms of undiagnosed thyroid problems.

2. Neck Discomfort/Enlargement.

A feeling of swelling in the neck, discomfort with turtlenecks or neckties, a hoarse voice or a visibly enlarged thyroid can all be symptoms of thyroid disease.

3. Hair/Skin Changes.

Hair and skin are particularly vulnerable to thyroid conditions, and in particular, hair loss is frequently associated with thyroid problems. With hypothyroidism, hair frequently becomes brittle, coarse and dry, while breaking off and falling out easily. Skin can become coarse, thick, dry, and scaly. In hypothyroidism, there is often an unusual loss of hair in the outer edge of the eyebrow. With hyperthyroidism, severe hair loss can also occur, and skin can become fragile and thin.

4. Bowel Problems.

Severe or long-term constipation is frequently associated with hypothyroidism, while diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is associated with hyperthyroidism.

5. Menstrual Irregularities and Fertility Problems.

Heavier, more frequent and more painful periods are frequently associated with hypothyroidism, and shorter, lighter or infrequent menstruation can be associated with hyperthyroidism. Infertility can also be associated with undiagnosed thyroid conditions.

6. Cholesterol Issues

High cholesterol, especially when it is not responsive to diet, exercise or cholesterol-lowering medication, can be a sign of undiagnosed hypothyroidism. Unusually low cholesterol levels may be a sign of hyperthyroidism.

7. Depression and Anxiety.

Depression or anxiety — including sudden onset of panic disorder — can be symptoms of thyroid disease. Hypothyroidism is most typically associated with depression, while hyperthyroidism is more commonly associated with anxiety or panic attacks. Depression that does not respond to antidepressants may also be a sign of an undiagnosed thyroid disorder.

8. Weight Changes.

You may be on a low-fat, low-calorie diet with a rigorous exercise program, but are failing to lose or gain any weight. Or you may have joined a diet program or support group, such as Weight Watchers, and you are the only one who isn’t losing any weight. Difficulty losing weight can be a sign of hypothyroidism. You may be losing weight while eating the same amount of food as usual — or even losing while eating more than normal. Unexplained weight changes and issues can be signs of both hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.

9. Fatigue.

Feeling exhausted when you wake up, feeling as if 8 or 10 hours of sleep a night is insufficient or being unable to function all day without a nap can all be signs of thyroid problems. (With hyperthyroidism, you may also have nighttime insomnia that leaves you exhausted during the day.)

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