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How To Tell If You Have A Underactive Thyroid

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How do you know if you have an underactive thyroid?

Levothyroxine tablets replace the body’s natural hormone, so side-effects are uncommon. However, if you have angina, you may find that your angina pains become worse when you first start levothyroxine. Tell a doctor if this happens.

If you take too much levothyroxine it can lead to symptoms and problems of an overactive thyroid gland – for example:

  • The sensation of a ‘thumping heart’ .
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Sweating.
  • An increased risk of developing ‘thinning’ of the bones .

This is why you need blood tests to check that you are taking the correct dose.

Other medicines may interfere with the action of levothyroxine – for example, carbamazepine, iron tablets, phenytoin, and rifampicin. If you start any of these medicines, or change the dose, you may need to alter the dose of the levothyroxine. Your doctor will advise. Also, if you take warfarin, the dose may need to be altered if you have a change in your dose of levothyroxine.

You Probably Don’t Have It

You may well have a number of symptoms connected with thyroid disease, but according to the British Thyroid Foundation in the UK only 5% of people have the condition.

The issue with the disease is that many related symptoms are more likely to have a different cause.

“Usually, with all the various symptoms, thyroid is towards the bottom of the list of possible causes,” explains Khoo. “In fact, the vast majority of people who believe they have an underactive thyroid because of something they’ve read on the internet won’t have the condition.”

The only conclusive test for this condition is a blood test, so if you are concerned, speak with your GP to see whether your symptoms warrant additional investigation.

It Might Masquerade As Pregnancy Or Menopause

Women who find their periods changing or even stopping completely may find themselves rushing out for a pregnancy test or making an appointment to discuss menopause with their GP.

However, thyroid problems can disrupt the menstrual cycle. Sufferers of an underactive thyroid gland may have heavy, prolonged periods and those with an overactive thyroid gland may find their periods become very light or stop completely.

“Problems with menstruation can come on gradually,” points out Pearce. “For example, often women will notice menstrual disturbance for a while before they completely stop.”

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Symptoms Of An Overactive Thyroid And Underactive Thyroid

All the symptoms of an overactive thyroid are the result of speeding up the body, which include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Talking quickly and feeling anxious
  • Rapid heart rate even when sitting still, which can lead to an abnormal heartbeat
  • A gut that works overtime, which can lead to increased appetite, frequent bowel movements, diarrhea, and weight loss despite eating more
  • In women, very light or absence of periods

All the symptoms of an underactive thyroid are the result of slowing the body down, which include:

  • Feeling tired and sluggish even after getting an adequate amount of sleep
  • Trouble with memory and foggy thinking
  • Slow heartbeat, causing less blood flow to the kidneys and consequently water retention
  • Slowing down of the gut, leading to decreased appetite, constipation, and weight gain despite eating less
  • In women, frequent and heavy periods

How The Thyroid Works

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Just as the thyroid gland communicates with other organs through the hormone it produces, the pituitary gland in the brain communicates with the thyroid through a hormone it makesthyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH. When the pituitary senses that thyroid hormone levels are too low, it releases more TSH to coax the thyroid into action. When the thyroid is nudged by TSH, it produces thyroid hormonea large proportion of which is thyroxine and a smaller proportion triiodothyronine . The T4 is eventually converted into T3, the “active” form that is taken up by receptors in body cells.

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What Is The Thyroid Gland

Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in your neck. It produces two thyroid hormones: tri-iodothyronine and thyroxine .

These thyroid hormones help your body use energy, stay warm and keep your brain, heart, muscles and other organs working as they should. Many of your body’s functions slow down when your thyroid doesn’t produce enough of these hormones.

Can Hypothyroidism Cause Erectile Dysfunction

In some cases, there can be a connection between untreated hypothyroidism and erectile dysfunction. When your hypothyroidism is caused by an issue with the pituitary gland, you can also have low testosterone levels. Treating hypothyroidism can often help with erectile dysfunction if it was directly caused by the hormone imbalance.

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Frequent Muscle Aches And Tenderness

A common complaint of those with undiagnosed thyroid issues is frequent muscle aches.

It can be characterised by long-term and widespread pain and soreness. This pain is often not specific to one particular area- much like those diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

In fact, both an underactive thyroid and fibromyalgia can be linked to a food intolerance .

Diagnosing An Underactive Thyroid

6 Signs and Symptoms That You Have an Underactive Thyroid You Should Know

It’s very important that an underactive thyroid is diagnosed as soon as possible.

Low levels of thyroid-producing hormones, such as triiodothyronine and thyroxine , can change the way the body processes fat.

  • are pregnant or trying to get pregnant
  • have just given birth
  • have another health condition, such as heart disease, which may complicate your medication
  • are taking a medication known to cause a reduction in thyroid hormones, such as amiodarone or lithium

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How Is Thyroid Cancer Treated

The main treatment for thyroid cancer is surgery to take out the whole thyroid gland or as much of it as can be safely removed. Surgery alone can cure thyroid cancer if the cancer is small and has not yet spread to lymph nodes.

Your doctor may also use radioiodine therapy after surgery. Radioiodine therapy destroys any thyroid cancer cells that were not removed during surgery or that have spread to other parts of the body.

Your doctor may also talk with you about other treatments for thyroid cancer. Learn more about thyroid cancer treatments at the National Cancer Institute.

What Is The Thyroid

The thyroid is a small gland below the skin and muscles at the front of the neck, at the spot where a bow tie would rest.

It’s brownish red, with left and right halves that look like a butterfly’s wings. It weighs less than an ounce, but helps the body do many things, such as get energy from food, grow, and go through sexual development. In younger children, it is also important for brain development.

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How Are Hypothyroidism And Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Treated

Doctors treat an underactive thyroid with daily thyroid hormone replacement pills. These will bring the body’s levels of thyroid hormone back to normal.

This treatment is fairly simple, but a person will have doctor visits several times a year for an exam, blood tests, and medicine changes as needed.

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Many symptoms of thyroid imbalance are vague and most doctors spend only a few minutes talking with patients to sort out the cause of their complaint.

Most conventional doctors use only one or two tests to screen for problems. They are not checking FT3, RT3 or thyroid antibodies.

Most conventional doctors use the normal lab reference range as their guide only. Rather than listening to their patients symptoms, they use optimal lab values and temperature as their guide.

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Favorite Integrative Sources For Hypothyroidism

Aside from their helpful overview pages on hypothyroid symptoms, the ATA has an extensive article about complementary and alternative medicine techniques for hypothyroidism. Here, read about the potential integrative treatment approaches for hypothyroidism, plus the ATAs overall take on their safety. Consider taking a copy of this article with you to your next endocrinology appointment to see if your doctor thinks any of the discussed methods could help work with your existing treatment to make you feel better.

It Might Lead To Unusual Hair Loss

Whilst both underactive and overactive thyroid conditions can lead to hair loss from the head, an underactive thyroid gland may also cause sufferers to shed hair from their eyebrows.

“The outer part of the eyebrows can become thin in people with thyroid underactivity,” explains Pearce. “Usually people notice hair loss from the head, but not many patients come to seek help for their eyebrows.” However, this hair loss is a fairly common symptom of the condition.

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Treatment For Subclinical Hypothyroidism

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence 2019 guidelines recommend giving levothyroxine replacement therapy even if your T4 level is normal, as long as your TSH level is raised over 10 mIU/L on two separate occasions three months apart. This blood result picture – normal T4 but raised TSH – is called ‘subclinical hypothyroidism’.

These guidelines also suggest that a six-month trial of levothyroxine for adults aged under 65 with subclinical hypothyroidism should be considered, if you have a TSH lower than 10 mlU/L on two occasions three months apart, and also have some symptoms of hypothyroidism.

What Are The Complications Of Hypothyroidism

Thyroid Problems- How Do You Know If You Have A Thyroid Problem?

Hypothyroidism can contribute to high cholesterol. If you have high cholesterol, you should get tested for hypothyroidism. Rarely, severe untreated hypothyroidism may lead to myxedema coma, an extreme form of hypothyroidism in which the bodys functions slow to a life-threatening point. Myxedema coma requires immediate medical treatment.

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Nail Splitting & Hypothyroidism

One other thing you can see here in this image is the splitting at the tips of the nails. This is also very very common in people with a hypothyroid condition.

Look at your fingernails and see if you have these types of findings. If you do, follow up with your doctor and have your thyroid fully evaluated.

What Are The Treatments For Hypothyroidism

The treatment for hypothyroidism is medicine to replace the hormone that your own thyroid can no longer make. About 6 to 8 weeks after you start taking the medicine, you will get a blood test to check your thyroid hormone level. Your health care provider will adjust your dose if needed. Each time your dose is adjusted, you’ll have another blood test. Once you find the right dose, you will probably get a blood test in 6 months. After that, you will need the test once a year.

If you take your medicine according to the instructions, you usually should be able to control the hypothyroidism. You should never stop taking your medicine without talking with your health care provider first.

If you have Hashimoto’s disease or other types of autoimmune thyroid disorders, you may be sensitive to harmful side effects from iodine. Talk to your health care provider about which foods, supplements, and medicines you need to avoid.

Women need more iodine when they are pregnant because the baby gets iodine from the mother’s diet. If you are pregnant, talk with your health care provider about how much iodine you need.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

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Weakness And Aches In Muscles And Joints

Low thyroid hormone flips the metabolic switch toward catabolism, which is when the body breaks down body tissues like muscle for energy .

During catabolism, muscle strength decreases, potentially leading to feelings of weakness. The process of breaking down muscle tissue can also lead to aching .

Everyone feels weak once in a while. However, people with hypothyroidism are twice as likely to feel more weak than usual, compared to healthy people (

6 ).

One study in 35 individuals with hypothyroidism showed that replacing low levels of thyroid hormone with a synthetic thyroid hormone called levothyroxine improved muscle strength and decreased aches and pains, compared to no treatment .

Another study showed a 25% improvement in the sense of physical well-being among patients receiving thyroid replacement .

Weakness and aches are normal following strenuous activity. However, new, and especially increasing, weakness or aching is a good reason to make an appointment with your physician.

Summary: Low levels of thyroid hormone slow down your metabolism and can cause painful muscle breakdown.

Can Thyroid Disease Cause Problems Getting Pregnant

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Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can make it harder for you to get . This is because problems with the thyroid hormone can upset the balance of the hormones that cause ovulation. Hypothyroidism can also cause your body to make more prolactin, the hormone that tells your body to make breastmilk. Too much prolactin can prevent .

Thyroid problems can also affect the . Your periods may be heavier or irregular, or you may not have any periods at all for several months or longer .

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Weight Gain Is Often One Of The First Signs Of Hypothyroidism

Weight gain is perhaps one of the first noticeable symptoms of hypothyroidism in patients. This is related to a slower than normal metabolism. Your metabolism is responsible for converting calories into energy when the process slows down, your body doesnt use the extra calories and then stores them as fat.

The weight gained in hypothyroidism isnt sudden. Youll gradually notice mild to moderate weight gain. You may also find losing weight more difficult, or perhaps you gain weight despite diet and exercise. On top of that, you may also feel bloated from hypothyroid-related constipation.

Signs Your Thyroid Is Underactive

Your thyroida small gland in your neckhas a huge impact on your body. It produces thyroid hormone , which is responsible for keeping your metabolism, heartbeat, temperature, mood, and more, in check. An underactive thyroid doesn’t produce enough TH, and that can cause a host of health problems. Watch the video for the warning signs.

Your thyroida small gland in your neckhas a huge impact on your body. It produces thyroid hormone , which is responsible for keeping your metabolism, heartbeat, temperature, mood, and more, in check. An underactive thyroid doesn’t produce enough TH, and that can cause a host of health problems. Watch the video for the warning signs.

Don’t have time to watch? Read the full transcript:

You’re exhausted: Too little thyroid hormone makes you feel fatigued.

You’ve gained weight: An underactive thyroid slows your metabolism.

Your skin is dry and itchy: Hair and nails might be brittle, too.

You’re feeling down: Thyroid hormones can affect brain chemistry and mood.

You’ve got brain fog: A sluggish thyroid can make you forgetful and fuzzy-headed.

You’re all backed up: Digestion slows down, making you constipated.

Your flow is like whoa: Say hello to longer, heavier periods with more cramps.

You’re constantly cold: Total system slowdown = less energy burned. That means less body heat.

Think you have a thyroid problem? See your doc and ask to get tested.

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Reproductive Changes In Women Could Mean You Have Low Thyroid

Women are at an increased risk for developing thyroid disease. Women are also more likely to develop thyroid conditions after pregnancy and following menopause.

Women may experience a change in their menstrual cycle if their thyroid function is off, says Dodell. Not only might you experience irregularities in your cycle, but hypothyroidism may also cause periods that are much heavier than normal.

Women who are trying to conceive may have difficulties getting pregnant. Therefore, women who are trying to get pregnant or are planning to try and get pregnant in the near future should have their thyroid levels checked, Dodell explains. We also monitor women who are being treated for hypothyroidism closely during pregnancy, since the dose of medication may need to be adjusted.

Menopausal women may experience worsening symptoms. Early menopause is a side effect of hypothyroidism this occurs when the onset of menopause is before age 40.

Is Diagnosing An Underactive Thyroid Difficult

How to know if you have a thyroid problem

Diagnosing an underactive thyroid, particularly in the early stages, can be tricky, precisely because the outward signs are often vague. As a result, patients may suffer from low-grade symptoms for months or even years if not tested.

“Hypothyroidism can cause fatigue, intolerance of cold, constipation, depression, weight gain, raised cholesterol, infertility, hair loss and dry skin,” says GP Dr Clare Morrison. “It can also cause muscle aches and a general slowing down of activity levels.”

If the condition isn’t treated, hypothyroidism can rarely cause myxoedema, a serious illness that results in extreme lethargy, and can even lead to coma and death. Fortunately this extreme situation is uncommon in the Western World.

Occasionally, an underactive thyroid can also be indicative of other more serious medical conditions.

Cancer of the thyroid, for example, can very occasionally affect thyroid function, although it is more commonly heralded by the appearance of a swelling at the front of the neck, hoarseness or difficulty swallowing,” explains Morrison.

“Likewise a tumour of the pituitary gland can affect thyroid function in rare cases. Sometimes blood tests that appear to show abnormal thyroid function can actually be caused by non-thyroid illnesses including poor nutrition/starvation, sepsis, burns, malignancy, heart attack, post-surgery, and serious liver or kidney disease.”

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Depression And Brain Fog

Finally, because your body cant use energy as efficiently, your nervous system slows down. Combined with the feelings of fatigue, you can feel sluggish, experience mood swings, and see signs of depression. Patients who receive hormone replacement therapy usually report improvement for depressive symptoms.

What Is The Outcome

Most people get better on levothyroxine treatment, although they usually have to stay on it for ever. If you are treated for hypothyroidism, a blood test each year is needed to make sure you are still on the right dose. As above, about 5 or 10 in 100 people will not feel any better on levothyroxine, even though their blood tests go back to normal. This may be more difficult to treat .

People who have subclinical hypothyroidism may or may not need treatment. In nearly 4 out of 10 people with subclinical hypothyroidism, the blood tests go back to normal on their own, without treatment ever being needed.

Very rarely, people who have not had their hypothyroidism treated develop a serious complication called myxoedema coma. This is rare but is very serious and can cause death.

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