Your thyroid gland sits beneath your voice box at the front of your neck, and the hormones that it releases are responsible for determining your body’s metabolism. When the thyroid gland stops producing the correct amount of hormones, a condition called hypothyroidism develops. This is the opposite of hyperthyroidism, in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. An underactive thyroid can be caused by a virus, certain drugs, an autoimmune disease, or (less commonly) pregnancy. Although it is relatively easy to treat hypothyroidism, many people fail to recognize the main symptoms and therefore end up suffering from a reduced quality of life for years. Read on to learn about the ten main signs that you should see a doctor to discuss whether you have hypothyroidism.
1) Persistent fatigue or lethargy:
Regular and excessive tiredness is one of the main signs that you might have an underactive thyroid gland. You may find that you simply cannot do as much as you used to be able to do without feeling exhausted, and you might notice that you unintentionally fall asleep quite regularly.
2) Increased sensitivity to cold:
People with hypothyroidism often have poor tolerance of cold temperatures. This includes a dislike of the sensations caused by cold drinks as well as an aversion to cold weather. You may even find that cold temperatures cause you physical pain as opposed to mere discomfort.
Some people with hypothyroidism find that they begin to feel low much of the time. The depression associated with an underactive thyroid may be obvious or subtle, but if mood dips are experienced in conjunction with some of the other symptoms on this list then it is worth having a blood test to rule out hypothyroidism.
4) Widespread pains:
You may have frequent pains in your joints and muscles, and these pains may seem to migrate to new areas without warning or injury. The type of pain you experience might be aching, gnawing, or sharp.
5) Unwanted weight gain that is difficult to explain:
Have you recently put on weight? If you have, try to be honest about whether this is due to overeating or an unhealthy diet. If reflecting on your food intake leaves you confused about why you have put on a substantial amount of weight during a relatively short period of time, hypothyroidism may explain your expanding waistline. When you discuss this with your doctor, make sure to take a list that roughly represents your average eating habits over the period of a week. This will help you to identify any problematic dietary factors that you may not realize relate to weight gain, and may also help to convince your doctor that an investigation into thyroid function is warranted.
If you used to have regular bowel movements and do not have an unhealthy diet, the development of constipation should be mentioned to your doctor. If hypothyroidism is not the cause, your doctor will still be able to give you advice on how to get rid of this troubling and painful condition. If left untreated, constipation can result in difficult further problems such as hemorrhoids and anal fissures.
7) Dry and pale skin:
If your complexion has changed to a paler shade or you are having unexplained problems with flaking skin, this could be a symptom of hypothyroidism.
8. Brittle nails and hair:
You might notice that your hair does not have the same thickness or bounce that it used to, and your nails may be breaking more often. This type of symptom usually goes unnoticed until you have been suffering from hypothyroidism for quite some time.
9) Menstrual problems:
Women with an underactive thyroid often have exhaustingly heavy periods. If you used to have lighter periods but have recently found that every month brings a substantial amount of bleeding, discuss this with your doctor. If your change in bleeding cannot be explained by hypothyroidism then other hormonal investigations may be suggested.
10) Physical weakness:
If you try to lift heavy objects or engage in sustained exercise, you will probably have a lower tolerance for this activity.
Many people spend years discounting their symptoms and assuming that they are simply tired and gaining weight as a result of life’s stresses. This is unfortunate because untreated hypothyroidism leaves you at risk of heart disease, heart failure, and birth defects in any baby you conceive. If the above symptoms have left you suspicious that you might have a thyroid problem, make an appointment with your doctor. Hypothyroidism can be diagnosed by way of a simple blood test, and it can be effectively treated with medication.