Thyroid disorders: Symptoms to watch out for
Whether you have an underactive or overactive thyroid, you will experience symptoms, some of which are obvious and a few that are a little unusual.
The small thyroid gland in your neck is responsible for the production of triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). T3 is the active form of T4. Together, they are sometimes referred to as the ‘thyroid hormone.’
These hormones help regulate the metabolism level in your body. Essentially, the hormone determines how much energy your body will use.
Other important roles of thyroxine and triiodothyronine include the healthy functions of the heart, digestive system, muscles, and brain.
Like most hormones, thyroid hormone levels are also regulated by the brain based on how much of it the body requires.
You can get a thyroid disorder if your thyroid gland becomes underactive and starts producing less hormones than required or if it becomes overactive and begins producing excessive hormones.
Check the condition of your thyroid
Hypothyroidism vs hyperthyroidism
The condition when your thyroid produces reduced levels of the hormone is called hypothyroidism. While this condition is more common in women, up to 2 in 100 people in the UK develop hypothyroidism at some point.
On the other hand, the condition involving an overactive thyroid is called hyperthyroidism. In the UK, 1 in 50 women and up to 2 in 1000 men develop hyperthyroidism.
Symptoms of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
The symptoms of hypothyroidism are all related to your body receiving less than the minimum required thyroxine. The resultant response of your body would be to, in a manner of speaking, run slower. All the routine functions will continue at a reduced speed.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism can be subtle and are often mistaken for stress caused by the demands of modern life. Sometimes the symptoms of underactive thyroid are confused with those that accompany depression.
The common symptoms of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) are:
- Involuntary weight gain
- Body aches and pains
- Feeling chilly
- Dried skin
- Rough hair
- Sluggish cognition
- Depression or low mood
- Fluid retention
While the symptoms listed above are the more common ones, the following are less typical ones but prevalent enough that they should also be taken into account if experienced:
- Voice becoming hoarse
- Diminished libido
- Erratic menstruation
- Loss of memory in the elderly
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
Since all of these symptoms are commonly associated with and attributed to other conditions, it is extremely important to get checked to know for sure.
These symptoms can take months, sometimes even years, to slowly manifest and develop over the years. If left unchecked and untreated, hypothyroidism symptoms only worsen and can result in other complications.
While the symptoms may leave you feeling unwell in general, they can also increase your risk of serious heart disease.
Hypothyroidism in pregnant women can result in severe complications such as pre-eclampsia, stillbirth, miscarriages, anaemia, excessive bleeding post-birth, and abnormalities in the baby. On rare occasions, people with untreated hypothyroidism may be afflicted with hypothyroid coma.
Symptoms of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
An overactive thyroid will produce more hormones than required. Since your body will receive an excess amount of thyroxine, your metabolic functions will speed up and cause a whole host of symptoms.
The following are the common symptoms of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism):
- Involuntary weight loss in spite of a good (or increased) appetite
- Heart palpitations
- Feelings of restlessness
- Poor sleep
- Hand tremors
- Excessive sweating
- Diarrhoea (or frequent toilet visits)
- Infrequent or light periods
- Itchy skin
- Thinning hair
- Muscle weakness
- Swollen thyroid gland (a goitre)
- Eye problems in people suffering from Graves’ disease
Most people suffering from an overactive thyroid commonly experience a combination of two or more symptoms. Experiencing all of the symptoms at once is uncommon. The symptoms develop gradually over a few weeks and can be very vague at first. Like hypothyroidism, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are commonly associated with other conditions. Therefore, it is vital to get tested.
An unchecked and untreated case of hyperthyroidism can lead to the following complications:
- Increased risk of heart disease, including heart attack, angina, and atrial fibrillation
- Pregnancy complications
- Osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones)
Importance of testing for thyroid disorders
Whether you have an underactive thyroid or an overactive thyroid, the symptoms alone will not be enough to reach a conclusive diagnosis. Both conditions result in symptoms associated with other common conditions. However, once diagnosed, both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can be easily treated.
A simple Blood Test for Thyroid can provide you with answers and help you on the way to wellness and good health.