Thyroid problems are becoming more common in America, but the majority of those affected don’t even know it. According to the National Institutes of Health, millions of Americans suffer from thyroid diseases. These diseases range from hyperthyroidism to thyroid cancer. Here are 10 signs that someone may indeed have a thyroid problem.
Weight fluctuations are one of the most common signs of thyroid problems. Perhaps someone is trying to lose weight, but despite his best efforts, he is unsuccessful, or maybe a person is trying to gain some much needed weight, but just can’t. The thyroid controls metabolism, so if it isn’t functioning properly, weight changes can become noticeable. A sudden spike or drop in weight that occurs quickly is always a cause for concern and should be discussed with a doctor.
If someone wakes up feeling tired, or has a hard time making it through the day without a nap, it could be a sign of an underactive thyroid. Insomnia occurs in the case of an overactive thyroid. Because the thyroid affects energy metabolism, an underactive thyroid doesn’t cause the body to metabolize enough energy as it should, resulting in fatigue. The opposite is true in the case of an overactive thyroid.
People with thyroid problems often will experience emotional problems, typically either depression in the case of an underactive thyroid, or anxiety with an overactive thyroid. It is unlikely that emotional problems are the only symptom that someone with a thyroid condition will experience, so if someone has no other symptoms, chances are that the depression or anxiety is unrelated. The good news is that treating the thyroid disease will also resolve the emotional problems with no further treatment needed.
Women who are having problems with their thyroid may experience problems with their menstrual cycles or infertility. The reason is because the thyroid plays an important role in the overall balance of hormone production in the body, so if the body is overproducing thyroid hormones (overactive thyroid) then the body can be unbalanced in such a way that menstruation and ovulation is disrupted, causing lighter periods than normal, or they could stop altogether. If the body doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormones (underactive thyroid) then periods could become quite heavy.
High cholesterol and an underactive thyroid go hand in hand. Because the thyroid plays a crucial role in the metabolism of fats in the body, mainly through a chain reaction of hormone production, a person may have high cholesterol if the thyroid isn’t working properly. New research shows that people with high cholesterol should be tested for hypothyroidism because it is estimated that half of those with high cholesterol also have a thyroid that is not functioning properly.
One of the more common signs of a thyroid problem is discomfort or pain in the neck. It usually occurs in the front, but it can occur in the back as well. The reason is that the thyroid gland, which is located in the front of the neck and is one of the largest glands in the body, can become swollen when it isn’t working properly. This swelling can put pressure on the surrounding area causing pain. It can also cause difficulty in swallowing because of its location.
Hair and skin changes often mark a number of different hormone changes. Hair and skin change during pregnancy and after birth, but thyroid dysfunction and the hormone disruption that result can cause hair and skin changes. Most often, hair becomes thin and brittle and may fall out. The same is true of the eyebrows. Skin can become dry, thick and coarse. If the problem is an overactive thyroid, hair may fall out as well, and skin can become fragile and thin.
Someone who has a thyroid that isn’t functioning properly may experience pain in the muscles and joints. The reason is because thyroid dysfunction is known to cause something called myopathies. Myopathies are diseases that affect the skeletal muscles in the body. This includes things like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and general pain throughout the body.
Those with thyroid problems can experience problems with their colon and bowels. If someone’s thyroid is overactive, they may experience diarrhea frequently. If the thyroid is underactive, they may suffer from constipation. Irritable bowel syndrome is often diagnosed alongside of thyroid problems.
Nearly every medical problem that isn’t caused by some type of pathogen is related to genetics. Those who have a history of thyroid dysfunction in the immediate family are more likely to experience thyroid problems themselves. If you have a family member with thyroid problems and are experiencing any of the signs or symptoms listed above, consult your physician and inform him or her about your family history.
Thyroid problems can be severe but they can be treated. There are a number of medications available as well as other treatments that can effectively normalize thyroid function so that people can get back to a normal life, healthy life.