Thyroid disorders are quite a common health issue that affect people from all over the world. In fact, studies have shown that about 12% of people will experience some form of abnormal thyroid function at some point in their lives. Women, in general, have a higher chance of developing a thyroid disorder than men, especially during pregnancy or after menopause. However, anyone is susceptible to developing thyroid problems. Therefore, recognizing the signs and symptoms of an overactive or underactive thyroid is the best way you can help yourself before it is too late.
Our thyroid, which is a small butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, plays a significant role in our body. It helps produce thyroid hormone (TH), which is responsible for coordinating energy, growth, heartbeat, temperature, mood and metabolism and making sure they are in check. But when it is unable to work as it should, meaning if the thyroid does not produce enough TH (aka hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid) or if it produces too much TH (aka hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid), it can cause a host of health problems. Hence, it is important to keep a close watch over any bodily changes and recognize the early signs of thyroid problems.
Here are some of the common signs and symptoms:
1. Unexpected Weight Gain or Loss
Experiencing unexpected weight gain or loss is one of the early signs of thyroid issues. Low TH production slows down your metabolism to a great extent that you are unable to burn enough calories to help maintain a healthy weight, causing a gain in weight. Meanwhile, too much TH production can make your metabolism overwork causing a sudden or unexpected loss in weight.
2. Your Heart Is Beating Faster Than Usual
Too much TH production, which is also known as hyperthyroidism, can cause heart palpitations, increase blood pressure and elevate the heart rate to an unusual level. A normal heart rate usually ranges between 60 to 100 beats per minute but if your heart rate is frequently over 80 bpm, it might be a good idea to check in with a doctor.
3. Changes in Menstrual Cycle
Thyroid hormone is closely linked to reproductive health, especially among women. If you are noticing irregular, heavier, longer or more painful periods than usual, your thyroid may be to blame. Underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism can cause such changes in your menstrual cycle. Likewise, too much TH can also cause your cycle to be more spaced apart or periods to get lighter than usual.
4. Always Feeling Tired
Constantly feeling sluggish and exhausted can be due to a lot of reasons, but they are strongly linked with a thyroid disorder as well, particularly that of hypothyroidism. Too little TH can deplete your body from all of its energy, making your muscles weak which causes your body to feel tired most of the time. Too much sleeping or having extreme difficulty waking up or feeling sleepy and tired even after getting a full night sleep can be a sign your thyroid is underactive.
5. Frequent Mood Swings
An imbalance of TH can affect your health not just physically but your mood and mental wellness as well. An underactive thyroid can lower the levels of "feel good" serotonin in your brain, making you feel low and depressed. On the other hand, too much of TH may cause you to feel nervous, anxious, irritable or angry.
6. Feeling Cold or Overheated
If you are reaching out for a sweater on a warm day, or notice that your hands and feet are always cold when uncovered, this could be due to an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism. On the other hand, if you are constantly feeling hot, with hot flashes and excessive sweating, this could be due to overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism.
7. Struggling with Hair Loss
Losing hair is a normal part of life. However, if you are noticing an extreme hair fall than usual, as well as issues like hair becoming thinner or finding bald spots on your head or eyebrows, it could be due to a problem with your thyroid. An underactive or overactive thyroid can interfere with hair growth, causing your hair to fall in large amounts or look thin.
8. Trouble Concentrating
Both overactive, as well as an underactive thyroid, can interfere with your concentration and make you forget simple things like where you put your phones, what you entered the kitchen for, and so on. Therefore, it is extremely important to rule out thyroid issues if you are experiencing this type of situation. Apart from this, prolonged confusion, brain fog, mental fatigue or memory loss can also be a result of thyroid issues.
9. Your Skin is Dry or Oily
Low TH means slow metabolism, which also means less sweating. And since there aren’t enough sweat or moisture to moisturize your skin, it becomes dry out and flaky most of the time. Too much TH on the other hand can add too much chemical and moisture to your skin, making your skin oily and prone to acne or skin breakouts.
10. Growth on the Neck
Extreme thyroid disorder can cause swelling in the neck, which is also known as goitre. Thyroid nodules, as they are most frequently called, are the result of a swollen thyroid gland. They also could be the result of a growth that has attached itself to the thyroid. If you notice a bulge in your neck, you should consult a doctor to have the situation assessed.
These are only some of the common signs and symptoms relating to thyroid disorder and there are more that may not be easy to characterize or does not show up physically. If you have one or more of these symptoms and suspect it's your thyroid, see your doctor before it is too late.
Managing Thyroid Issue The Natural Way
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The Bottom Line
Dealing with thyroid issue can be a tricky one and it is not always easy to know if you have a problem with your thyroid. You may not even show any signs or symptoms but that does not mean it is there. However, knowing some of the common symptoms of an underactive or overactive thyroid can help detect any problems early on and help lower your chances of developing severe thyroid disorders.
And most importantly, make sure to consult with your health care provider if you think you might be experiencing symptoms related to thyroid disorders or notice a change in appearance to your thyroid.