The 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.
Thyroid problems are common and include hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, goiters, thyroid nodules, thyroiditis and thyroid cancer. Of these, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) are the most common and can cause many hormonal, emotional and physical changes in the body.
It is believed that as many as 59 million Americans have a thyroid problem, but many people are not even aware of it.
According to The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, millions of people are silent sufferers of undiagnosed thyroid problems. This happens because many of the signs and symptoms are so common that they are often ignored or even misdiagnosed. Plus, they tend to vary from one person to another.
By recognizing the signs and symptoms of a potential problem, you can ask your doctor to test your thyroid and discuss treatment options.
Here are the top 10 signs that you may have a thyroid problem.
1. Feeling Fatigued
Feeling fatigued, exhausted, tired and having little or no energy during the day are common issues often associated with thyroid problems.
Some people may not be able to carry out daily activities without a nap or short breaks. These can all be signs of thyroid trouble, especially if it is quite different from your past level of fitness or energy.
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.
If you feel tired all the time, it’s time to consult your doctor for proper diagnosis.
2. Sudden Change in Body Weight
Unexplained weight gain and even weight loss can be a warning sign of a thyroid disorder. Weight gain even after following a strict diet and rigorous exercise plan 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.
If you have unexplained weight changes, get your thyroid checked.
3. Depression and Anxiety
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 can indicate thyroid disease, these symptoms alone are not enough to conclude that you are suffering from a thyroid disorder.
4. Menstrual Problems
Women with thyroid problems suffer from many menstrual problems. In fact, thyroid problems can be a cause of early or delayed puberty and menstruation. Plus, 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. On the other hand, shorter, lighter, infrequent or absent periods are linked with hyperthyroidism. Infertility can also be due to undiagnosed thyroid conditions.
If you notice a sudden change in your menstrual cycle, it may be a symptom of a thyroid condition. Also, girls who have either very early or very late menstruation may have a potential thyroid problem. So, it is advisable to consult a gynecologist.
5. Sudden Hair Loss
Unexplained hair loss is often associated with thyroid problems. Low thyroid hormone levels can disrupt your hair growth cycle and cause more hair loss than normal.
Hair loss from the scalp as well as from the outside of your eyebrows and other body parts can be noticed. Plus, hair becomes dry, brittle and coarse. These are symptoms of hypothyroidism.
An overactive thyroid can also cause hair issues. With hyperthyroidism, one can notice thinning hair just on the head. Also, the scalp will become too dry.
If you are concerned about the amount of hair you are losing, get your thyroid checked and opt for proper treatment.
6. Feeling Too Cold or Hot
If you feel too cold or too hot without any known reason, it can also indicate an underlying thyroid problem. A change in the level of the thyroid hormones can disrupt the ability to regulate body temperature.
Having cold hands and feet, or feeling cold all the time despite being in a warm room, can be due to hypothyroidism. On the other hand, hyperthyroidism can prompt excessive sweating and an inability to tolerate heat.
7. Hoarse Voice & Discomfort in the Neck
Thyroid problems can also cause problems like hoarse voice, snoring and a slight bulge or protrusion in the thyroid area.
Plus, as the thyroid is located toward the front of the neck, any kind of discomfort in this area can be a sign of an underlying thyroid problem.
Neck problems like pain and discomfort can be caused by inflamed thyroid (thyroiditis) or a goiter, in which the thyroid swells and becomes enlarged. A goiter can be a result of either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
If you experience any of these problems, consult a doctor to find out if you have a thyroid disorder.
8. Bowel-Related Problems
If you have digestive problems like constipation, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it may be due to an underlying thyroid problem. Thyroid hormones can cause changes in bowel habits, interfering with the body’s ability to digest food and generate waste.
Severe or long-term constipation, even with adequate fiber intake, has been found to be linked with hypothyroidism, while diarrhea or IBS can be a sign of hyperthyroidism.
If you have noticed a change in your bathroom habits and there are no signs of improvement even after treatment, it’s time to get your thyroid checked.
9. Excessive Skin Dryness
The functioning of the skin is controlled by hormones released by the thyroid gland, and hence any problem in the thyroid can cause skin problems.
When the thyroid hormone levels are low, the skin becomes dry and pale. Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include scaly and wrinkled skin, less sweating, change in skin color, edema, brittle and thick nails, and eczema. In the case of an overactive thyroid, the skin tends to become sweaty and itchy.
10. Muscle and Joint Pain
Unexplained aches and pains in the muscles and joints, and a general feeling of weakness in the arms and legs, can all be symptoms of undiagnosed thyroid problems like hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Underactive thyroid can cause general muscle weakness and pain, including cramps and stiffness. It can also cause general joint pain and contribute to tendonitis in the arms and legs, carpal tunnel syndrome and tarsal tunnel syndrome. All these symptoms can indicate hypothyroidism.
On the other hand, an overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism may cause muscle weakness and fatigue that may make it difficult to climb stairs, hold objects in your hands and reach your arms above your head.
If you one or more of these symptoms and signs, you may be suffering from an overactive or underactive thyroid condition. Plus, if you have a close family relative who has a thyroid problem, you have a higher risk of having thyroid problems down the road.