Did you know that a little gland in your neck, one you might not even know of, is controlling how hormones are made and move throughout your entire body?
While many people have never thought of their thyroid gland at all, this small gland, shaped like a butterfly, is responsible for such vital functions as regulating your body temperature, how quickly you digest your food, and keeping your heartbeat in sync. And if it isn’t working properly, your thyroid can cause all kinds of systems to go haywire.
According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), “an estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease.” Unfortunately, these conditions often go undiagnosed for many patients: “up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.”
Thyroid problems take two main forms: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
As the names suggest, the first is a problem of an underactive or low-functioning thyroid gland that doesn’t make enough of the hormone. This leads to a slowing down of bodily systems. The second is caused by an overly active thyroid gland that produces too much hormone and results in speeding up of bodily systems.
Today, we’ll look at six symptoms of low thyroid and five of high thyroid function and the ways your body might be telling you that it’s time to get help!
Symptom #1: Feeling Sad or Depressed
Have you been feeling low emotionally? Listless and uninterested in the things going on around you? Even crying for no particular reason? You might be suffering from low thyroid function.
When your thyroid isn’t producing enough hormone, your body isn’t producing the energy it needs. This can lead to feeling down and unmotivated.
Symptom #2: Constipation
Another symptom of low thyroid function is an inability to properly digest your food. Because you have below average quantities of thyroid hormone, your bodily systems aren’t getting the signal or energy to work at normal speeds.
This includes your bowels and means that food can sit around and block up your intestines!
Symptom #3: Sleeping Too Much
When not enough thyroid hormone is being produced, this slows down your heart rate and your metabolism. Because your body isn’t converting what you put in, food and drink, into energy that you can use, you’re likely to feel tired all the time. No matter how much you sleep, you don’t feel rested.
Symptom #4: Hair Loss and Dry Skin
For people with low thyroid function, the hair follicles probably aren’t receiving enough hormone, so they have a tendency to go dormant. When this happens, old hair that falls out won’t be replaced by new, healthy hair, and you’ll have the impression that you’re losing your hair altogether.
As for your skin, the lack of thyroid hormone can mean you don’t sweat as much. While this might seem like a good thing, it actually means your skin will get brittle and flaky, as well as potentially being itchy.
Symptom #5: Sudden Weight Gain
For people with hypothyroidism, experiencing feelings of depression and fatigue, food can become a tremendous source of comfort. Unfortunately, if your metabolism is running low, less of that intake will be converted into energy and more of it will get stored as fat. This can lead to worrisome weight gain.
Symptom #6: Muscular Pain or Tightening
Now that we’ve looked at hypothyroidism, let’s turn to hyperthyroidism. If your thyroid gland is too active, this can lead to weakness in the muscles, especially at the joints, as the metabolic rate in your body is too high.
Symptom #7: Fluttering Heart
When your body is making too much thyroid hormone, this leads to an accelerated heart rate. For many people, this can manifest as jitters and an anxious feeling. Over time, this fast heartbeat can be incredibly disturbing and scary, since we instinctively associate it with serious heart conditions like arrhythmia.
Symptom #8: Fuzzy Head
For people with hyperthyroidism, the overproduction of hormones leads to a lack of ability to concentrate. When your body is working so fast, it can make focusing on any one thing at a time difficult.
Symptom #9: High Blood Pressure
As the excess of thyroid hormone makes your heart work faster and faster, your blood pressure shoots up as well. If this continues for extended periods, it will lead to other symptoms such as pounding in your ears, headache, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.
Symptom #10: Increased Appetite or Changes in Tastebuds
As your body is flooded with thyroid hormone, your metabolism speeds up and you feel hungry all the time. You eat and eat, much more than is normal. Despite the fact that your body is processing the food more quickly, you still could gain weight, especially if you turn to fast food or junk food.
Symptom #11: Neck or Throat Discomfort
With hyperthyroidism, the gland itself becomes inflamed and swollen. This means you might feel discomfort or even pain in the neck, resulting from the inflamed gland. This could be a symptom of Grave’s disease, a serious autoimmune condition.
As we’ve seen, both underactive and overactive thyroid glands are a problem and can manifest through many uncomfortable symptoms. If you’re experiencing some of these symptoms, talk to your doctor right away. While the causes of thyroid problems are complex, the conditions are definitely treatable!