The thyroid gland is an integral part of the endocrine system. This butterfly-shaped organ regulates important hormones that influence many functions in your body. These hormones also affect how well your body performs physically and mentally. So, if you’re feeling unwell with no explanation, your body might be showing signs of a thyroid problem.
Remember that your body is a complicated and intricate system with many performance levels. However, over time many factors can build up and disrupt the balance of your body. Specifically, your systems can become overactive or underactive to compensate for or respond to these factors. Those with a family history of thyroid disorders are especially at risk.
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. To explore twenty signs of thyroid problems, our Nashville, TN surgeons have divided them into ten signs for each condition.
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 your thyroid is off when it has 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 situations when you’re not physically exerting yourself.
4. Weight Loss
Depending on where you are in life, this may not be unwanted. But, the abundance of thyroid hormones will increase your metabolism and appetite. While you may welcome a little unexplained weight loss, 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 indicate 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 swells. If you develop a goiter, you must take iodine supplements and possibly consider surgery.
Goiter symptoms include a tight feeling around your throat, hoarseness, coughing, and trouble swallowing.
You should also note that Hashimoto’s thyroiditis often causes goiters. 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. This is because a critical 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 time.
While it would seem that rapid nail growth would be a positive side effect of thyroid dysfunction, that isn’t the case. This forced growth is too fast. 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 various ways. For example, 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 skin darkening, rashes, lumps, and reddish spots.
9. Difficulty Sleeping
You may find sleeping difficult with more hormones telling your body to be active. For instance, 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 affect sleep.
10. Changes in Menstrual Periods
Because hyperthyroidism tells your body to move faster, the menstrual cycle can become lighter and shorter. You may also notice the time between your periods increasing.
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, you should call your doctor immediately if you notice a rapid heart rate and experience a fever or deliriousness. These are signs of a hyperthyroid complication called a 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 fewer thyroid hormones, making it harder to recover from day-to-day stress. As a result, you’ll start feeling tired more often and more frequently. It also becomes more challenging 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 more difficulty heating itself because your metabolism slows down. Therefore, you’ll feel more sensitive to the Nashville winter 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 also cause other skin conditions.
5. Weight Gain
Thyroid problems cause your metabolism to slow down significantly. As a result, your body begins burning less energy and consequently stores more fat. It can even be hard 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 a 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, contributing to fatigue, aches, and pains 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, your nervous system slows down because your body can’t use energy as efficiently. 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 in 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 treatment.
However, if you are experiencing several of these symptoms at a time, you most likely have a thyroid condition.
List of Thyroid Disorders
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
- Thyroid Tumors
- Thyroid Cancer
- Postpartum Thyroiditis
Before you start receiving treatments, 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. Your doctor will help you know what to do when the tests return.
Usually, treatments include hormone replacement therapy. Additionally, your doctor may prescribe Iodine supplements to treat goiters.
However, if your symptoms are severe, it can be a sign of thyroid cancer. In this case, you must visit a thyroid surgeon to remove the cancerous cells. Chemotherapy and radiation oncology are also viable options.
Thyroid Surgeons in Nashville & Middle TN
If you and your doctor decide that surgery is needed, visit The Surgical Clinic. We have many providers in Nashville, Smyrna, and throughout Middle Tennessee who can give you the care you need. In addition, our board-certified surgeons are highly trained individuals with many years of experience.
You can meet our surgeons, who offer thyroid and parathyroid surgery, and Dr. Taylor, who performs scarless surgery.
Call us, and schedule a consultation with a healthcare professional today. Thyroid awareness month is in January, and this event helps many Americans identify a thyroid condition they have been enduring. Our surgeons in Tennessee can screen you for thyroid problems you may suspect and if you are at risk of developing thyroid diseases.
Request an Appointment To Screen Your Thyroid
General surgeons in Greater Nashville
Dr. Suhail Allos
Dr. John Boskind
Dr. Rachel Bryant
St. Thomas West
Dr. Mark Cooper
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Dr. Alex Fruin
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Dr. Davidson Oxley
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