Did you know that about 59 million Americans have a thyroid problem, but the majority don’t even know it? When your thyroid doesn’t function, it can affect every aspect of your health, particularly weight, depression and energy levels.
But wait a minute! What’s the thyroid again? It’s a butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck, and it’s the master gland of metabolism.
Since undiagnosed thyroid problems (such as hypothyroidism, where the thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, or hyperthyroidism, where too much of the hormone is made) 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 stay on top of how healthy your thyroid is.
Here are some of the most common signs that you may have a thyroid condition (remember that you don’t need to have all the listed symptoms in order to have thyroid trouble):
1. Hair & Skin Changes
Hair and skin are particularly vulnerable to thyroid conditions. With hypothyroidism, hair frequently becomes brittle, coarse and dry, while breaking off and falling out easily. Skin can become coarse, thick, dry, and scaly, and there can also be 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.
2. Bowel Problems
Severe or long-term constipation is frequently associated with hypothyroidism, while diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is associated with hyperthyroidism.
3. Muscle and Joint Pains
Aches and pains in your muscles and joints, weakness in the arms and a tendency to develop carpal tunnel in the arms and hands (or tarsal tunnel in the legs) can all be symptoms of undiagnosed thyroid problems.
4. Neck Discomfort
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.
Feeling exhausted when you wake up, 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. It’s important to note that insomnia (which can subsequently make you feel more tired throughout the day) is yet another symptom of thyroid trouble.
6. 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.
7. Depression and Anxiety
Depression or anxiety, including the sudden onset of a 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. Family History
If you have a family history of thyroid problems, you are at a higher risk of having a thyroid condition yourself. You may not always be aware of thyroid problems in your family, so pay attention to any discussions of glandular conditions, goiter or weight gain due to “a glandular problem.”
9. 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.
10. 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, 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.
Again, if you notice that you have any of the above symptoms, don’t wait or second-guess your concerns – schedule an appointment with your doctor so that you can be examined and, if necessary, receive the necessary treatment to feel better and feel more in control of your health.