19 Thyroid Disease Symptoms You Should Get Checked Out ASAP
A thyroid disorder epidemic?
Your thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, produces thyroid hormones, which control many of your bodily functions (how many calories you burn, how fast your heart beats, etc.), according to the Office on Women's Health (OWH)—and that means that tiny gland can have a dramatic impact on your health.
Thyroid diseases—and those thyroid disease symptoms that come along with them—relate to how much or how little thyroid hormone the gland produces. Depending on that, thyroid diseases—which include hyperthyroidism, when your body makes too much thyroid hormone, and hypothyroidism, when your body makes too little of the hormone—can make you feel restless or tired, and even lose or gain weight, per the OWH.
Even more concerning: While at least 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder, women are as much as 10 times as likely as men to have a thyroid problem, says integrative medicine specialist Robin Miller, MD, co-author of The Smart Woman’s Guide to MidLife & Beyond. That can lead to symptoms including problems with menstrual cycles, as well as problems getting pregnant and during pregnancy.
As far as what can cause your thyroid to go haywire, experts aren't totally sure, but they believe it could be related to genetics, an autoimmune attack, pregnancy, stress, nutritional deficiencies, or toxins in the environment. Because of thyroid hormones far reach in the body—from brain to bowels—diagnosing a disorder can be challenging. Here's are some key symptoms that could signal that your thyroid is out of whack.
Feeling tired and having no energy are issues associated with lots of conditions, but they're strongly linked with hypothyroidism, the disorder that's the result of too little thyroid hormone. If you're still tired in the morning or all day after a full night's sleep, that's a clue that your thyroid may be underactive. Too little thyroid hormone coursing through your bloodstream and cells means your muscles aren't getting that get-going signal. “Fatigue is the number one symptom I see,” says Dr. Miller. “It’s the kind of fatigue where you’re still tired in the morning after a full night’s sleep—that’s a clue that you’re not simply sleep deprived; your thyroid may be underactive.”
You're feeling down
Feeling unusually depressed or sad can also be a symptom of hypothyroidism. Why? It's thought that the production of too little thyroid hormone can have an impact on levels of "feel good" serotonin in the brain. With an underactive thyroid turning other body systems down to "low," it's not surprising that your mood might sink there, too.
You feel jittery and anxious
Anxiety and "feeling wired" are associated with hyperthyroidism, when the thyroid gland is making too much thyroid hormone. Flooded with consistent "all systems go" messages, your metabolism and whole body may spin into overdrive. If you feel like you just can't relax, your thyroid may be "hyper."
Your appetite or taste buds are altered
An increased appetite can be a sign of hyperthyroidism when too much thyroid hormone may have you feeling hungry all of the time. The only upside is that the "hyper" part of the disorder typically offsets the caloric impact of an increased appetite so the end result isn't weight gain.
An underactive thyroid, on the other hand, can mess with your sense of taste and smell.
Your brain feels fuzzy
Sure, it could be caused by sleep deprivation or aging, but cognitive functioning can take a hit when your thyroid is out of whack. Too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) can cause difficulty concentrating and too little (hypothyroidism) may cause forgetfulness and general brain fog. “When we treat patients for hypothyroidism, they are often surprised at how fast their brain fog goes away and how much sharper they feel,” Dr. Miller says. “Many women think it’s just something that comes along with menopause when it really is a sign of a thyroid problem.”
You've lost your interest in sex
Having little or no desire in the sack could be a side effect of a thyroid disorder. Too little thyroid hormone could be a contributor to a low libido, but the cumulative impact of other hypothyroidism symptoms—weight gain, low energy, and body aches and pains—could also play a part.
You're feeling all fluttery
That fluttery feeling you're having may be heart palpitations. It can feel like your heart is actually fluttering or skipping a beat or two, or beating too hard or too quickly. You may notice these feelings in your chest or at pulse points in your throat or neck. Heart flutters or palpitations can be a sign of too many thyroid hormones flooding your system (hyperthyroidism).
Your skin is dry
Skin that's dry and itchy can be a symptom of hypothyroidism. The change in skin texture and appearance is probably due to slowed metabolism (caused by too little thyroid hormone production), which can reduce sweating. Skin without enough moisture can quickly become dry and flaky. Likewise, nails can become brittle and may develop ridges.
Your bowels are unpredictable
People with hypothyroidism sometimes complain of constipation. The disruption in hormone production has likely caused a slowdown of digestive processes.
“There’s just no motility in your gut,” Dr. Miller says. “This is one of the top three most common symptoms of hypothyroidism I see.”
On the reverse side of the spectrum, an overactive thyroid gland can cause diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements, which is why they're symptoms of hyperthyroidism.