10 Signs and Symptoms Associated With Thyroid Disease
Hormones are chemicals that dictate many aspects of human health. From when a woman is able to conceive a child, to pregnancy, energy levels and even body temperature, all of these bodily functions are controlled to some degree by a delicate balance of hormones. When they fall out of that optimal balance, you may notice some symptoms and problems. A source for some of these issues is the thyroid. The thyroid gland’s primary function is to produce thyroid hormones, which regulate your metabolism among other vital body functions like body temperature, muscle strength, menstrual cycle and more.
The thyroid can sometimes get off kilter, producing either too much thyroid hormone or too little. When the thyroid isn’t producing enough hormone, that’s called hypothyroidism. On the other hand, a too-active thyroid, causes hyperthyroidism or thyrotoxicosis. Both conditions can cause significant problems for patients, impair quality of life and become life threatening. Each person is different in terms of the symptoms of thyroid disease. Some patients will show few symptoms, while others might have most of the below symptoms. If you do have some of these signs, remember it might not be a thyroid issue at all. Many of these (symptoms) are found with other non-thyroid related conditions too.
Below are 10 signs and symptoms associated with thyroid disease:
1. Heat or cold intolerance
The thyroid gland controls your body’s ability to keep warm or cold as needed in the environment you’re in. When thyroid hormone levels are too high, you may overheat, and when your thyroid isn’t producing enough hormones, you may feel cold all the time.
2. Hair loss
Both hypo- and hyperthyroidism can lead to hair loss. The disruption of the production of thyroid hormones can change the way hairs develop at the root and may prevent new hair from growing in where old hair has fallen out. This can lead to thinning hair on the scalp and eyebrows. In some cases, people with thyroid issues may develop a condition called alopecia areata, which causes the hair to fall out in patches and can cause complete baldness. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease, but it may accompany thyroid issues. In addition, some medications that are used to treat thyroid issues can cause hair thinning.
3. Sleep issues
Because the thyroid helps regulate your body temperature, it’s also involved in your sleep-wake cycle; your body temperature naturally falls as you head toward sleep. Too much thyroid hormone can lead you to feel jittery and wide awake, causing insomnia and other problems with falling or staying asleep. Having too little thyroid hormone, however, can make you feel sluggish and sleepy. Some people with hypothyroidism can get nine hours of sleep a night and still feel groggy in the morning.
4. Altered heart rate
The symptoms that a patient may have are quite numerous and span all of the body systems. One concerning and common one that could signal hypothyroidism is a slow pulse rate. Thyroid hormones help regulate how frequently your heart beats, and as such, too little hormone can result in a slower rate. In severe cases, this can lead to abnormally low heart rate and coma.
At the other end of the spectrum, an increased heart rate – usually over 90 beats per minute when not exercising can indicate your thyroid is putting out too much thyroid hormone. Your hands might be shaky as well. In severe cases, this elevated heart beat can lead to heart failure or irregular heart rhythms.
5. Weight and appetite fluctuations
Unintentional and/or unexplained weight gain or weight loss can be an indicator that the thyroid isn’t working properly. The amount of hormone your thyroid is releasing can also impact how hungry you feel, so you may notice that your appetite has changed. Weight gain and reduced appetite are associated with hypothyroidism, while weight loss and increased appetite can be signs of hyperthyroidism.
6. Fatigue and weakness
Fatigue and weakness can occur in both hyper- and hypothyroidism. Initially, someone with an overactive thyroid gland may feel energetic, but as the condition persists, that flush of energy can disappear and leave them feeling rundown and exhausted. Both conditions can also affect muscular strength. This weakness tends to be most apparent in muscles toward the center of the body, so climbing stairs or engaging in activities that use shoulder strength, such as combing your hair or lifting a heavy item, may be impacted.
7. Bowel problems
Bowel issues can sometimes be related to thyroid problems. If a person has an under active thyroid, it can cause the gut to be lazy and not want to be stimulated, so constipation can be one of the first signs someone will notice when they have an under active thyroid. In contrast, if you’re running to the bathroom a lot more frequently, that could be a sign of too much thyroid hormone.
8. Eye issues
Eye issues, including dry eye and altered vision, can occur with thyroid problems. In particular, an autoimmune disorder called Graves’ disease, which causes a range of issues throughout the body because of an overproduction of thyroid hormones, is linked to eye issues.
9. A lump in the throat
Also called a goiter, swelling of the thyroid gland can produce a noticeable lump in the throat that may be obvious to touch or sight. A goiter is just a generic term that indicates an enlarged thyroid gland. This abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland can occur with hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Goiters can also develop in people who have normal thyroid function but have an iodine deficiency or another issue. The symptoms of low thyroid, or hypothyroidism, could be signs of iodine deficiency.
10. Menstrual changes in women
The thyroid gland heavily influences the menstrual cycle. Either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can lead to irregular menses with changes in menstrual flow (heavy or light periods), frequency (how often you’re menstruating) and duration (how long your cycle lasts). Thyroid issues can also make becoming pregnant difficult. Women with a thyroid condition who plan on becoming pregnant or who are discovered to be pregnant while under treatment must be seen immediately by an experienced obstetrician and/or an endocrinologist for management during pregnancy.