The thyroid gland is an important part of the endocrine system. This butterfly-shaped organ regulates important hormones that influence many functions in your body. These hormones also influence how well your body performs physically and mentally.
Keep in mind, your body is a complicated and intricate system that operates on many levels of performance. However, over time many factors can build up and disrupt the balance of your body. Specifically, your systems can become overactive or underactive in order to compensate or respond to these factors.
Thyroid function problems, in particular, occur when the thyroid either becomes under or overused. These conditions are called hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, respectively. Both of these conditions can cause several problems. In order to explore twenty signs of thyroid problems, we have divided them into ten signs for each of these separate conditions.
10 Signs of Hyperthyroidism
As we mentioned, hyperthyroidism comes from an overactive thyroid gland. When this happens, your body produces an excess of thyroid hormones, such as triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). T4 is specifically produced when the pituitary gland secretes the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Here are the signs that you may have abnormally high levels of thyroid hormones.
1. Nervousness and Anxiousness
When your thyroid gland works overtime, the hormones tell the body to work in overdrive. As you’ll see, this leads to several symptoms that can make you feel nervous and anxious. But before that, these hormones lead to mood swings, and hyperactive thoughts.
2. Increased heart rate (plus palpitations)
Next, as one of the physical symptoms of high hormone levels, your heart rate increases. The increase in heart activity can also lead to heart palpitations. So, if you feel your heart is off or moving too fast, you should ask your doctor about investigating your thyroid health.
3. Increased Sweating
Because the thyroid hormones tell your body to become more active, naturally it will try to cool itself off by sweating. Even in less active times when you’re not physically active.
4. Weight loss
Depending on where you are in life, this may not be unwanted. But, the abundance of thyroid hormones will increase both your metabolism and your appetite. While a little unexplained weight loss can be welcomed, unexpected weight loss can lead to dramatic and unwanted changes. On its own, however, sudden weight loss indicates other conditions.
5. More bowel movements
The changes in hormone levels can even influence your digestive system. More frequent bowel movements can be linked to other conditions such as Crohn’s disease, however, hyperthyroidism can even cause rapidly changing patterns.
A goiter occurs when the thyroid gland begins to swell due to the overproduction of hormones. Typically, the thyroid needs adequate levels of iodine. However, if you don’t have enough iodine, your body will try to compensate for what’s missing, and the thyroid begins to swell. If you develop a goiter, you’ll need to take iodine supplements and possibly consider surgery.
Goiter symptoms include a tight feeling around your throat, hoarseness, coughing, and trouble swallowing.
It should also be noted that goiters are caused even more often by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This condition is an autoimmune disorder that affects millions of Americans. Specifically, this disorder causes inflammation and damage to the thyroid. As a result, the body tries to compensate by causing the thyroid gland to grow.
Hashimoto’s disease can also lead to symptoms of hypothyroidism, but more on that later.
7. Weak Nails and Thinning Hair
Your hair and nails are constantly growing. One important function of the thyroid gland is sending hormone signals to trigger hair and nail growth. With hyperthyroidism, the extra hormones tell your body to increase the growth of your hair follicles and nails in a shorter period of time. As a result, your body has to stretch its natural resources, which can lead to thin and brittle hair and nails.
8. Sensitive Skin and Skin Discoloration
Thyroid hormones also influence the quality of your skin in a variety of ways. With hyperthyroidism, you may notice itchy and dry patches of skin.
Your face may feel softer and swollen. You may even notice swelling around your fingertips. Other symptoms include darkening of the skin, rashes, lumps, and reddish spots.
9. Difficulty Sleeping
With more hormones telling your body to be active, you may find it hard to sleep. For instance, the hormonal changes can make your nervous system hyperactive. Therefore, you may notice difficulty sleeping by no fault of your own. Also, as we’ve discussed, you may experience nervousness and anxiety due to thyroid problems, which also affects sleep.
10. Changes in Menstrual Periods
Because hyperthyroidism tells your body to move faster, the menstrual cycle can become lighter and faster. You may also notice longer periods of time in between your periods.
On their own, these symptoms may indicate other medical problems. However, when you or your doctor identify more than one of these symptoms at a time, there is a good chance it’s due to thyroid problems.
Thankfully, most thyroid disorders are treatable and are not life-threatening. However, if you notice a rapid heart rate and experience either a fever or deliriousness, you should call your doctor immediately. These are signs of a hyperthyroid complication called thyrotoxic crisis.
10 Signs of Hypothyroidism
Now that we’ve covered the signs of an overactive thyroid, let’s look at what happens with an underactive thyroid gland.
First, when you develop hypothyroidism, your body produces less thyroid hormones and it becomes harder to recover from day-to-day stress. You’ll start feeling tired more often and more frequently. It also becomes harder for your body to get moving each day. Your thoughts become more sluggish and slow, and you may have difficulty concentrating as mental fatigue sets in.
2. Sensitivity to cold
The hormones secreted by your thyroid gland also regulate your body’s temperature. With fewer hormones, your body has a harder time heating itself up because your metabolism slows down. Therefore, you’ll start to feel more sensitive to the cold.
While hyperthyroidism speeds up your digestive process, hypothyroidism slows it down. Constipation often occurs as a result of these slowed processes. If you notice days pass without a bowel movement, you should talk to your doctor.
4. Dry and Itchy Skin
Just as the overproduction of thyroid hormones leads to skin problems, the lack of these hormones also impacts your skin’s health. The skin tends to become dry, itchy, and scaly. Your skin may even wrinkle or become pale. These symptoms can be linked to other skin conditions.
5. Weight Gain
Thyroid problems cause your metabolism to slow down significantly. As a result, your body begins burning less energy which causes more to be stored as fat. It can even be hard to try to exercise because of the fatigue that comes with hypothyroidism.
6. Muscle Weakness
Without the stimulation from thyroid hormones, your muscles begin to lose their strength. They may even atrophy or become permanently relaxed.
7. Muscle Aches, Pains, and Soreness
Similarly, your muscles can feel sore, tired, and heavy. Also, with lower metabolism, your body uses catabolism to create energy. Catabolism is a process that breaks down muscle and other tissue, thus leading to weakness, soreness, and pain.
8. Joint Pain, Stiffness, and Swelling
Catabolism also affects the joints. Which also contributes to the fatigue, aches, and pains that come from thyroid problems.
9. Heavy or irregular periods
In contrast to hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism causes the menstrual cycle to become slower and heavier. Cycles can also become less frequent.
10. Depression and Brain Fog
Finally, because your body can’t use energy as efficiently, your nervous system slows down. Combined with the feelings of fatigue, you can feel sluggish, experience mood swings, and see signs of depression. Patients who receive hormone replacement therapy usually report improvement for depressive symptoms.
How to Treat Thyroid Problems
Now that you know more about the problems that indicate thyroid problems, what should you do? Of course, the first thing you should do is ask your doctor about your symptoms. Depending on your symptoms, you may have another condition that needs to be treated.
However, if you are experiencing several of these symptoms at a time, you most likely have a thyroid condition.
Before you start receiving treatments, first you’ll need to work with your doctor to get tested. Typically this will include blood tests to check the levels of T4 and T3 in your blood. When the tests come back, your doctor will help you know that to do next.
Usually, treatments include hormone replacement therapy. Iodine supplements may be prescribed in order to treat goiters.
However, if your symptoms are severe, it can be a sign of thyroid cancer. In which case you’ll need to visit a thyroid surgeon to remove the cancerous cells. Chemotherapy and radiation oncology are also viable options.
Thyroid Surgeons and Doctors at The Surgical Clinic
If you and your doctor decide that surgery is the treatment you need. Come visit The Surgical Clinic. We have many providers who can give you the care you need. All of our board-certified surgeons are highly trained individuals and have many years of experience.
Give us a call, and set up a consultation today.