The thyroid is found in the front of the throat and is shaped like a butterfly. Although it is a very small organ, the influence it has on the rest of the body is enormous. People who have a hyperactive thyroid produce an overabundance of thyroid hormone and those with a hypoactive thyroid produce too little. The resulting symptoms can be serious.
1. Feeling sad or depressed
One problem caused by thyroid dysfunction is emotional imbalance. Too few thyroid hormones can result in usually strong feelings of sadness or even prolonged depression.
2. Digestive problems
Hypothyroidism can lead to indigestion and constipation whereas hyperthyroidism can trigger diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Although there could be numerous causes for digestive problems, a combination of these symptoms with others on this list should prompt one to at least rule out an over- or underactive thyroid.
3. Too much sleep
Sure, getting up in the morning is difficult for all of us. But if this is the case every day and no matter how much sleep you get, you still feel too exhausted to face the day, you should probably see your doctor. When your thyroid produces too few hormones, you’ll feel permanently tired.
4. Hair loss and dry skin
Hypothyroidism often leads to dry and itchy skin. The change in the skin structure is the result of a slow metabolism, which also reduces sweating. Hair and nails also become dry and break easily. Hair can also fall out.
5. Sudden weight gain or loss
Weight gain can be the result of many causes (not least of which our diet and exercise regimen), but if it seems to occur randomly and not as a direct result of changes to diet or physical activity, it can be cause for concern. An under-functioning thyroid can often lead to both a reduced appetite and unexplained weight gain. Similarly, someone with an overactive thyroid may have experienced an increased appetite and mysteriously shed pounds.
6. No interest in sex
Low thyroid hormones can cause a reduced libido. This can also be associated with other symptoms such as weight gain, pain and hair loss.
7. Muscle aches or tension
Sore muscles usually have a definite cause, such as when we exert muscles we don’t normally use. But when this pain arises without an obvious cause, it could be the result of an underlying thyroid dysfunction.
8. Heart palpitations
A new love interest can sometimes lead our hearts to seem to flutter or even to skip a beat, but if there’s no such romantic reason and you’re experiencing heart palpitations, abnormal rhythms, and shortness of breath, it could be a symptom of an overactive thyroid.
9. Loss of concentration
Concentration and memory problems can present themselves with both hyper- and hypothyroidism. In fact, patients being treated for a thyroid problem are often surprised at how quickly their brains begin functioning normally again once they begin therapy.
10. High blood pressure
If high blood pressure cannot be reduced despite a good diet and regular exercise, then the thyroid function should be examined. Both over- and under-active thyroid conditions can lead to secondary hypertension.
11. Changes in appetite
Related to the above section on weight gain/loss, if you suddenly can’t stop eating or you lose all interest in food, a thyroid imbalance may be responsible.
12. Neck or throat pain
As a result of dysfunction, the thyroid itself can become painful. If you have no other cold symptoms but still feel pain in this area of your throat, and your voice changes or you notice any swelling, you should see a doctor.
Thyroid conditions are actually quite rare, with hyperthyroidism affecting only 1.2% of the population in the United States and hypothyroidism as little as 0.3 to 0.4%. However, if a number of these symptoms are presenting themselves and you want to rule out a thyroid hormone imbalance, a simple blood test can tell you the answer. Sometimes peace of mind is enough to send those worrisome symptoms back where they came from!