Excessive Fatigue Is The Most Common Underactive Thyroid Symptom
This symptom may seem very vague and general, but its not.
In the renowned DanThyr study from Denmark, 4 out of 5 men and women with hypothyroidism reported experiencing chronic fatigue. This is actually the number 1 most commonly reported symptom .
Excessive fatigue and weakness can be described as extreme lethargy, where you are feeling too weak to do your regular everyday activities. Its also a common early sign of type 2 diabetes.
Hypothyroidism Is The Most Common Thyroid Disorder
The thyroid does a lot for your body. It makes hormones that keep organs running properly. It also controls the way you use energy: for example, how you burn calories and how fast your heart beats.
But sometimes this powerful gland doesn’t work like it’s supposed to.
One common thyroid condition, called hyperthyroidism, causes the thyroid to make more hormones than the body needs.
But the most common thyroid disorder is hypothyroidism, which affects about 4.6% of people in the U.S. This condition causes a lack of hormone, which leads the thyroid to slow down. People with hypothyroidism often gain weight and feel tired, but some may not have any symptoms at all.
What Is Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer happens when cancer cells form from the tissues of the thyroid gland.
Most people with thyroid cancer have a thyroid nodule that does not cause any symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you may have swelling or a lump in your neck. The lump may cause problems swallowing. Some people get a hoarse voice.
To tell if the lump or nodule is cancerous, your doctor will order . Most thyroid nodules are not cancerous.
For more information about thyroid cancer, visit the National Cancer Institute’s thyroid cancer page.
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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 .
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.
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What Are The Symptoms
As thyroid hormones deal with every cell in our bodies, symptoms of low thyroid can be wide ranging. The most common ones are
Fatigue, weight gain, brain fog, memory loss, depression, hair loss, cold hands/feet, dry skin, brittle nails, PMS, anxiety, mood swings, puffy face, aching joints, sex drive, constipation.
As we age our thyroid gets less efficient and is also affected by other stuff going on in the body , and because this is a gradual process, symptoms can slowly get worse and if left untreated can increase the risk of more serious conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Things You Only Understand If You Have Hypothyroidism
An elevated thyroid stimulating hormone or low levels of thyroid hormones, including free T4, total T3, or free T3, may also signal hypothyroidism. A physical exam or an imaging scan may also be used to diagnose this condition.
If someone becomes significantly hypothyroid, they may have a slow heart rate or swelling or pain in their joints, elevated cholesterol and muscle weakness, warns Dodell. Since screening for hypothyroidism is common these days and the majority of people will get checked if early signs develop, hopefully treatment is started prior to severe symptoms developing.
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What Does Treatment Involve
Hypothyroidism has many different symptoms ranging from mild to severe that can affect your quality of life. If left untreated, it can result in serious problems, like heart disease, infertility, and rarely, even death. Treating hypothyroidism lowers the risk of permanent problems and can also significantly improve your symptoms.
The main treatment for hypothyroidism is a thyroid-replacement pill called . Levothyroxine is a chemically made thyroid hormone, and works just like natural thyroid hormone in your body. It is taken every day, and your healthcare provider will adjust your dose based on your symptoms and blood tests. Once you find the best dose, your provider will continue to monitor your blood levels.
Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about your specific symptoms and questions before starting any new treatment.
Memory Loss And Brain Fog Is A Sign Of Hypothyroidism
The brain is a major target organ for thyroid hormones. This is why the onset of hypothyroidism can affect brain function.
Clinical trials and functional imaging studies of the brain confirm that advanced hypothyroidism is associated with cognitive decline- largely reversible with treatment .
In contrast, subclinical hypothyroidism is not linked with major neuropsychiatric problems, although studies show small deficits in memory and executive function do occur. This is most often described by patients as experiencing brain fog.
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Weight Gain Or Much Greater Difficulty Losing Weight
As the thyroid hormone regulates metabolism, an underactive thyroid often leads to a low metabolic rate.
The result is a tendency for body weight to increase during development of severe hypothyroidism. Likewise, this makes losing weight much more difficult.
In fact, a Danish study of newly diagnosed hypothyroidism patients found that patients weighed on average 7 kg more than the control group .
But it turns out this weight gain is due in part to severe water retention caused by low thyroid hormone . Alongside a slower metabolism and low energy levels, these symptoms accumulate to drive thyroid-related weight gain.
How Is An Underactive Thyroid Treated
Treatment depends on the cause of your underactive thyroid. If you have low thyroid hormone levels but no symptoms, your doctor might suggest more blood tests every 6 or 12 months to monitor your thyroid function. If you have symptoms of underactive thyroid, your doctor might recommend you take regular tablets of thyroid hormone .
- Thyroxine needs to be started slowly, so the dose you take and how often are gradually built up to reach the right level. This usually takes about 6 weeks.
- Your symptoms will probably go away within a few months but may stay for up to 6 months after starting the medicine.
- Having regular blood tests every 612 months allows your doctor to check your thyroid hormone level and adjust the dosage of your thyroxine if necessary.
- The amount of thyroxine you need can change over time because the function of your thyroid gland may change over time.
- It is also important not to take more thyroxine than has been recommended by your doctor because this can cause symptoms of hyperthyroidism and contribute to osteoporosis.
Talk to your doctor if you are using thyroxine and are planning to or have become pregnant. This is because the amount of thyroxine you need may need to be increased.
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How Is Hypothyroidism Diagnosed In Men
Diagnosing hypothyroidism is based on your symptoms and a blood test that measures how well your thyroid is working.
The initial blood test includes checking your thyroid-stimulating hormone level, and your provider may also use an additional test to check your thyroxine level. TSH is a hormone made in a separate gland called the pituitary, and it controls how much T4 your thyroid makes. When T4 levels are low, the pituitary makes more TSH in order to increase the T4 level. In hypothyroidism, this is why TSH levels are high and T4 levels are low.
How Does Your Thyroid Gland Work
Thyroid hormone production is regulated by a feedback loop between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and the thyroid gland. Hypothalamic thyrotropin-releasing hormone stimulates pituitary thyrotropin synthesis and secretion.
In turn, TSH stimulates production and release of T4 and T3 from the thyroid gland. When enough T4 is produced, it signals to TRH and TSH that there is enough thyroid hormone in circulation and not to produce more.
About 85% of the hormone produced by our thyroid gland is T4, which is an inactive form of the hormone. After T4 is made, a small amount of it is converted into T3, which is the active form of thyroid hormone.
To complicate matters, T3 also gets converted into either Free T3 or Reverse T3 . Its the Free T3 that really matters in all of this, since its the only hormone that can attach to a receptor and cause your metabolism to rise, keep you warm, keep your bowels moving, mind working, and other hormones in check. The role of Reverse T3 is not well known, however, I do see it elevated in persons under extreme stress and those who have mercury toxicity.
And finally, Hashimotos thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease, is the most common form of hypothyroidism and its numbers are rising annually. An autoimmune disease is one in which your body turns on itself and begins to attack a certain organ or tissue believing its foreign.
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What Causes Hypothyroidism In Men
The causes of hypothyroidism in women and men are similar. As just mentioned, in the U.S., the main cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease called Hashimotos thyroiditis. In this condition, your immune system makes cells that attack your thyroid gland, which keeps it from working properly.
Other causes of hypothyroidism include:
Cancer, such as thyroid cancer
Previous radiation or surgery to the thyroid or other parts of the neck
Not getting enough iodine in your diet
Are There Any Foods I Can Eat To Help My Hypothyroidism
Most foods in western diets contain iodine, so you do not have to worry about your diet. Iodine is a mineral that helps your thyroid produce hormones. One idea is that if you have low levels of thyroid hormone, eating foods rich in iodine could help increase your hormone levels. The most reliable way to increase your hormone levels is with a prescription medication from your healthcare provider. Do not try any new diets without talking to your provider first. Its important to always have a conversation before starting a new diet, especially if you have a medical condition like hypothyroidism.
Foods that are high in iodine include:
- Edible seaweed.
- Iodized salt.
Work with your healthcare provider or a nutritionist to craft a meal plan. Your food is your fuel. Making sure you are eating foods that will help your body, along with taking your medications as instructed by your healthcare provider, can keep you healthy over time. People with thyroid condition should not consume large amounts of iodine because the effect may be paradoxical .
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Signs And Symptoms Your Thyroid Medication Is Too Low
First things first, let’s talk about how to know if your thyroid medication is working or not.
It’s actually quite simple and once I explain it to you, it will make a lot of sense.
How do you know if your thyroid medication is high enough?
Well, if it is high enough then you will experience NONE of the symptoms of having a low thyroid.
So if you are experiencing ANY remaining low thyroid symptoms then you know right away that your thyroid medication is off.
These symptoms include:
- Continued dry skin
You’ll notice that I used the term “continued” in the description list and this was by design.
Because the symptoms of low thyroid present with these exact symptoms.
And if your symptoms did NOT go away when you started your thyroid medication then you know that your meds aren’t working.
If you are experiencing ANY of these symptoms AFTER you start taking your thyroid medication then you need to look at the reasons listed below.
Weak Nails And Thinning Hair
Your hair and nails are constantly growing. One important function of the thyroid gland is sending hormone signals to trigger hair and nail growth. With hyperthyroidism, the extra hormones tell your body to increase the growth of your hair follicles and nails in a shorter period of time. While it would seem that your nails growing fast would be a positive side effect of thyroid dysfunction, that isnt the case. This forced growth is too fast. As a result, your body has to stretch its natural resources, which can lead to thin and brittle hair and nails.
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Here Are 5 Red Flags That Your Thyroid Medication Is Not Working Optimally For You Despite Normal Lab Work
1. Your weight is not budging
One of the most common complaints that patients have is difficulty losing weight. Due to the cosmetic nature of this symptom, many women lose their self confidence and their self image suffers. Of course many are not expecting for the weight to come down overnight but weight loss should reflect your nutritional and physical efforts to stay lean and fit. Some women will continue to gain weight even while on thyroid medication despite strategic weight loss measures. Sound familiar?
2. Your hair is still falling out
Another major physical concern is hair loss. While some hair loss is normal , excessive hair loss is a sign that your medication may not be doing the job. There may be other reasons why your hair is falling out such as low iron, low protein intake or poor digestion .
3. You still have sluggish digestion
A good test to measure your bowel transit time is the sesame seed test. Simply mix a teaspoon of sesame seeds in a few ounces of water and make note of the time. When you see the seeds in your stool, you can stop the timer. The average American eliminates food that he/she ate 96 hours ago! Comparatively, a healthy person eliminates their meals between 18-24 hours after eating. This is a very inexpensive but extremely valuable self assessment. Try this test out immediately and make note of your transit time. Its critical to your health!
4. You continue to have depression, brain fog, and cloudy thinking
Changes In Menstrual Periods
Because hyperthyroidism tells your body to move faster, the menstrual cycle can become lighter and faster. You may also notice longer periods of time in between your periods.
On their own, these symptoms may indicate other medical problems. However, when you or your doctor identify more than one of these symptoms at a time, there is a good chance its due to thyroid problems.
Thankfully, most thyroid disorders are treatable and are not life-threatening. However, if you notice a rapid heart rate and experience either a fever or deliriousness, you should call your doctor immediately. These are signs of a hyperthyroid complication called thyrotoxic crisis.
The Role Of Your Thyroid
First, its good to know what your thyroid does in the body. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland right near the larynx that produces hormones, said Naresh Rao, a board-certified family medicine physician, partner at Sports Medicine at Chelsea and founder of Max Sports Health in New York City.
The thyroids main function is to produce triiodothyronine and thyroxine , which help regulate almost all bodily functions, including your weight, metabolism, energy levels and body temperature, as well as how your skin, hair and nails grow.
Theres also something called the thyroid-stimulating hormone, which is produced by the pituitary gland and tells your thyroid to make more T3 and T4. There are tests to check your TSH, T3 and T4 levels, all of which can tell doctors if you have a thyroid problem.
Will Hypothyroidism Make Me Gain Weight
If your hypothyroidism is not treated, you could gain weight. Once you are treating the condition, the weight should start to lower. However, you will still need to watch your calories and exercise to lose weight. Talk to your healthcare provider about weight loss and ways to develop a diet that works for you.
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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.
It Can Affect Your Thinking
If you’re suffering from thyroid disease, you may find it affects the way you think.
“Those who suffer from an underactive thyroid gland often complain about not being able to think straight or that they have ‘brain fog‘,” explains Khoo.
But the problem isnt confined to those with an underactive thyroid gland.
“In contrast, people with overactive thyroid glands say they can have quite a short attention span and be a bit snappy,” adds Pearce.
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