If Youre Feeling Bluesy Cold And Lethargic And Have Gained Weight Recently Despite Not Seeming To Eat Much You May Have An Underactive Thyroid Here We Dive Into The Causes Assessment And Treatment Of This Common Endocrine Disorder
Uunderactive thyroid symptoms include decreased appetite, aching or weak muscles, joint pain, blurred vision, and other ailments.
Underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism is a common endocrine disorder, characterized by low levels of thyroid hormones. According to The American Thyroid Association , more than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime. Hypothyroidism is like driving a car with the brake on: Your physical and mental abilities slow. It has several distinct causes. Thankfully, in most cases it is treatable with thyroid hormone supplementation. But first, its important to be able to recognize underactive thyroid symptoms.
Inflammation Of The Thyroid Gland
Hypothyroidism often results from previous or currently ongoing inflammation of the thyroid gland, which leaves a large percentage of the cells of the thyroid damaged and incapable of producing sufficient hormone.
The most common cause of thyroid gland failure is called autoimmune thyroiditis , a form of thyroid inflammation caused by the persons own immune system.
Underactive Thyroid Sign: You Have Trouble Growing Facial Hair
My husband is in no danger of going bald anytime soon, but he now understands that the seemingly random bald spot in his beardalong with the one he noticed on the side of his headis a result of Hashimotos.
Hair may be coarse, hair loss is common, and the nails become brittle due to slower turnover of cells, reduced blood flow and access to nutrients, Wentz says, noting that hair loss specific to the outer third area of the eyebrow is reason enough to warrant a visit to your physician.
Thinning hair, or difficulty growing it, is more common in hypothyroidism than in those with overactive thyroids, says Dr. Adimoolam.
In order for hair to be maintained, you need to have a balance between hair rest and hair growth, She says. In hypothyroidism, you get an imbalance leading to thinning hair.
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Is Hypothyroidism Becoming More Common
As for dietary causes of hypothyroidism, certain studies suggest that iodine deficiency – particularly in pregnant women and women of childbearing age – may be prevalent in the UK.
“Iodine deficiency only results in hypothyroidism in adults when it is a severe deficiency and not at the mild-to-moderate level seen in UK and parts of Europe,” notes endocrinologist Dr Mark Vanderpump, a former president of the British Thyroid Association and a member of the UK Iodine Group.
Those on vegan diets may have an inadequate intake of iodine if they don’t take a supplement, and this can be compounded by eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, sprouts and cauliflower, as these contain a substance which impedes the absorption of iodine.
“However, non-dietary hypothyroidism is being detected in greater numbers,” says Dr Morrison. “This may be because the population is ageing, and probably also represents better recognition and detection rates.”
Underactive Thyroid Sign: You Have A Relative With A Thyroid Condition
Thyroid conditions have a genetic component, especially when talking about Hashimotos disease, and a parent with thyroid condition can raise your risk of having one, too.
Generally speaking, the parent with the thyroid condition will most likely be your mother because women are more likely to suffer from autoimmune conditions, says Dr. Adimoolam.
If a man has a family history it is important to be aware of symptoms of thyroid disease so you can be screened earlier, she says, adding that all you need is a simple blood test.
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You Feel Constipated At All Times
Constipation is both a sign and symptom of underactive thyroid. Patients with hypothyroidism usually complain of severe constipation. Constipation usually disappears once the thyroid hormone imbalance is corrected.
It is still not yet clear how this mechanism works, but medical experts think it is associated with the gut-thyroid. However, severe constipation on its own is not likely to indicate underactive thyroid.
Feeling Low Or Depressed
Whether this is a direct effect of hormonal imbalance is debatable though, as these symptoms are not experienced by all patients .
It seems more likely the result of numerous unmanaged hypothyroid symptoms that have accumulated over time to make life miserable.
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It Could Send You Into A Tailspin
When an overactive thyroid gland spins out of control, it can sometimes send those affected into a spiral of anxiety.
“When you have an overactive thyroid gland it increases your stress hormones and their effect on the body. Your thyroid basically makes the adrenaline more effective you get a higher heart rate, palpitations and become sweatier,” explains Khoo.
“The problem is that if you get anything that worries you at all, it causes the heart rate to go up far more than it would if your thyroid gland were normal. You feel it, then you feel more worried and this can go round and round – sending you into a tailspin of anxiety and sometimes panic attacks.”
“Conversely, when someone has a really underactive thyroid gland then it can be a bit like depression – the patient becomes less interested in life, they feel tired and don’t sleep properly,” he adds.
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.
Radiation Treatment Of The Thyroid
Radioactive iodine, a common treatment for hyperthyroidism, gradually destroys thyroid cells. If you receive radioactive iodine treatment, you probably will eventually develop hypothyroidism. Doctors also treat people who have head or neck cancers with external radiation therapy, which can also damage the thyroid if it is included in the treatment.
High Levels Of Ldl Cholesterol Could Be An Alarming Sign
A significant increase in Apo B levels is one of the leading causes of heart disease. Typically, thyroid hormones affect the blood vessels and the heart.
Also, both early and advanced stages of underactive thyroid are linked to increasing in bad cholesterol, triglycerides, and Apo B levels.
Many mechanisms have been proposed on this issue. However, it is not yet clear how influential underactive thyroid is in heart disease risk. Perhaps it may all be exaggerated.
Lifestyle factors also play a significant role in causing heart disease. Therefore, high LDL is not a critical indicator of underactive thyroid.
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Causes Of Underactive Thyroid Symptoms
In newborns, congenital hypothyroidism occurs in 1 in 4,000 newborns and is due to abnormal development of the thyroid. All newborns in the United States are screened for this condition failure to treat can lead to abnormal growth and brain development and severe mental retardation. It is usually caused by an iodine deficiency in the mother.
As for adults, The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that 4.3 percent of the U.S. population had subclinical hypothyroidism and 0.3 percent had clinical hypothyroidism.
There are multiple causes of hypothyroidism, among them the following:
If You Have A Symptom Of Hypothyroidism Should You Be Worried
The most common hypothyroid symptoms are fatigue, cold intolerance, constipation, slower metabolism, and dry skin, while more surprising signs may be a slower heart rate, joint and muscle pain, and dry or puffy skin, says Gregory Dodell, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine, endocrinology, diabetes, and bone disease at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. Some people might experience one symptom but not the others.
Another possibility is having multiple symptoms with different causes. For instance, fatigue could be related to a mental health condition, while a slower heart rate may be hypothyroid related.
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Symptoms Of Myxedema Coma
If left untreated, an underactive thyroid can lead to serious conditions like heart disease and obesity. When your thyroid hormone levels become dangerously low, you can develop signs of an impending myxedema coma, which happens when your body shuts down due to a lack of thyroid function.
Symptoms you can experience before a comatose state include:
- High blood carbon dioxide levels
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4. Digestive Issues
Your digestive system can be impacted by thyroid health in different ways. Too little thyroid hormone slows the movement of food through your digestive tract, which can leave your belly bloated or contribute to constipation. It also slows the body’s metabolism, which can lead to weight gain.
In more severe cases, illnesses such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth can develop. Getting these issues diagnosed and treated will also greatly help in managing your thyroid issues.
Research suggests that overt hypothyroidism may be associated with an esophageal motility disorder that presents as heartburn. What is esophageal motility, you ask? John Hopkins Medicine explains this as the contractions that occur in the esophagus, the muscular tube that propels food from the throat to the stomach. Esophageal dysmotility is when contractions in the esophagus become irregular.
It’s unclear exactly why thyroid hormones may have this effect on the esophagus. Perhaps a slowed digestive system could lead to acid reflux and heartburn, or a food sensitivity could be to blame.
6. Dry Skin
Low thyroid hormone levels directly affect the skin, causing a variety of changes, including dryness, thickening, and scaling. Patients can suffer from head to toe and everywhere in between.
7. Sensitivity to Cold
8. Menstrual Irregularities
- Bleeding that lasts more than seven days
- Needing to change pads or tampons during the night
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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.
Whats The Connection Between Hypothyroidism And Weight Loss
Once youre treated for this condition, you may lose any weight that youve gained. Thats because once your thyroid levels are restored, your ability to manage your weight returns to normal.
If youre treating hypothyroidism but dont see a change in your weight, that doesnt mean weight loss is impossible. Work with a doctor, registered dietitian, or personal trainer to develop a focused healthy-eating plan and exercise strategy that can help you lose weight. Get more tips on managing your weight when you have hypothyroidism.
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Does Birth Control Affect My Thyroid
When youre on birth control pills, the estrogen and progesterone inside of the pills can affect your thyroid-binding proteins. This increases your levels. If you have hypothyroidism, the dose of your medications will need to be increased while youre using birth control pills. Once you stop using birth control pills, the dosage will need to be lowered.
Surgical Removal Of Your Thyroid
If your entire thyroid gland is removed as a result of thyroid problems, youll develop hypothyroidism. Using thyroid medication for the rest of your life is the primary treatment.
If only a portion of the gland is removed, your thyroid may still be able to produce enough hormones on its own. Blood tests will help determine how much thyroid medication youll need.
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The Thyroid Function Test
As mentioned earlier, the amount of thyroid hormone in the blood is regulated by the pituitary gland. When levels of T4 drop, the pituitary gland responds by increasing the amount of TSH, which in turn stimulates the thyroid to produce more T4.
So an underactive thyroid can either be indicated by a high reading of TSH, or low levels of T4, or both. Standard NHS thyroid function tests measure both of these. Occasionally, T3 is measured but this isn’t generally considered necessary.
“When it comes to treatment of thyroid deficiency, most doctors are satisfied that giving T4 in the form of levothyroxine sodium is perfectly effective,” says Dr Morrison. “However, some practitioners argue that T3 is stronger and works more quickly, and recommend it for those few patients who don’t appear to respond to T4 alone.
“The relative merits of T4 and T3 have been debated and studied, but the view of the NHS is that there is no convincing evidence for the need of T3, rather than T4.”
How Are Thyroid Nodules Treated
Treatment depends on the type of nodule or nodules that you have. Treatments include:
- Watchful waiting. If your nodule is not cancerous, your doctor may decide to just watch your condition. You will get regular physical exams, blood tests, and perhaps thyroid ultrasound tests. If your nodule does not change, you may not need further treatment.
- Surgery. Surgery may be necessary to take out nodules that may be cancerous or large nodules that cause problems breathing or swallowing.
- Radioiodine. This type of treatment is helpful if you have nodules that make too much thyroid hormone. Radioiodine causes nodules to shrink and make smaller amounts of thyroid hormone.
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What Are Thyroid Nodules
A thyroid nodule is a swelling in one section of the thyroid gland. The nodule may be solid or filled with fluid or blood. You may have just one thyroid nodule or many.
Thyroid nodules are common and affect four times as many women as men.7 Researchers do not know why nodules form in otherwise normal thyroids.
Muscle Weakness Aches Tenderness Or Stiffness
As your metabolism slows from a lack of thyroid hormone, your body can begin to break down muscle tissue for a source of energy . This causes feelings of weakness, stiffness, and even aching in your muscles. Over a third of people with an underactive thyroid get muscle cramps because they havent engaged in enough activity recently.
Its common for muscles to feel weak after strenuous activity, but if the weakness is new or increasing, it might be time to check your thyroid hormone levels.
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Underactive Thyroid Sign: Your Sex Life Suffers
Theres a lot of misinformation out there blaming low levels of T as being the reason, but Dr. Adimoolam says thats just not the case. Low T levels, she adds, are rarely seen with hypothyroidism in men .
So, if low levels of T arent behind the dip in the action between the sheets, what is?
Its all about brain function and energy level, and an overall sense of wellbeing. If you feel lousy, all you want to do is lie down and feel better. Youre just not going to be that interested in sex, says Dr. Wartofsky.
Its kind of like depression, he explains. You just feel lousy. Testosterone is not the only thing governing your interests.
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Brain Fog And Memory Loss
Brain fog and memory loss are earlier signs of underactive thyroid. The thyroid hormones mostly target the brain. Thats why, in an adult, development of underactive thyroid affects the functionality of the brain.
Also, advanced hypothyroidism is closely linked to cognitive declinereversible with treatment. Early stages of the underactive thyroid have no connection with severe neuropsychiatric disorders, but changes in memory and brain function occur.
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How Can I Help My Child
If your child has hypothyroidism, it’s very important to give the thyroid hormone as instructed by your doctor.
If your child is too young to chew or swallow the pill, crush it and mix it with a small amount of water, non-soy baby formula, or breast milk. Make sure your child drinks all the liquid. Some thyroid hormone pills dissolve more easily in liquids than others, so talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble with this.
Some infant formulas , medicines, and mineral supplements may block the thyroid medicine from being absorbed. Check with your doctor about how and when to give other medicines or supplements while your child takes thyroid hormone.
Underactive Thyroid Sign: You Cant Poop
Hypothyroidism results in decreased gut motility, or a slowing of the gut contractions that help move your waste through your digestive tract and out of your body.
As the contractionscalled peristalsisslow, your body has more time to reabsorb water from the stool your system hasnt passed yet, making it harder in the process, says Dr. Adimoolam.
Slowing gut contractions can result in constipation. You may also end up having a harder time pooping simply because your stool is harder than it should be.
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