You Have Gastrointestinal Issues
If you have such issues, it may be assumed that something is wrong with your digestive system. But the thyroid may also cause gastrointestinal problems. Dr. Block told me that bowel changes are one of the symptoms of a malfunctioning thyroid. Specifically, the Mayo Clinic describes one of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism as “changes in bowel patterns, especially more frequent bowel movements,” while constipation can be a symptom of hypothyroidism.
Women’s health expert Carolyn Dean, MD, ND told me, “Slow metabolism leads to slow bowel movement.”
Getting Your Thyroid Checked Can Be A New Beginning
If you have some of the symptoms listed, and you just don’t feel right, you might want to talk to your physician about it and have your thyroid checked. If your thyroid is the issue, there are a variety of treatments out there that can potentially improve your health and quality of life. It does get better.
Which Hormone Tests Should I Ask For
Which tests you undergo will depend on your symptoms and preferences. If youre experiencing hot flashes, irregular periods, and other telltale signs of menopause, it would make sense to have your estrogen and progesterone levels checked. If youre feeling fatigued, depressed, or having trouble with your weight, comprehensive thyroid testing would likely be a good option. If youre a man, you may also want to check your testosterone levels, as low testosterone can produce similar symptoms.
On the other hand, you might simply be interested in a general hormone health check without any specific concerns. This can be useful to establish a baseline that helps you identify hormonal changes in the future or detect asymptomatic health conditions.
Regardless of whether you have specific concerns or just want an overview of your current hormonal health, your health care practitioner can help you determine which tests are most appropriate for your situation.
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Should You Get Blood Tests To Check Your Thyroid Even If You Have No Symptoms
The scenario is fairly common: you are in your medical providers office for a checkup and also happen to be getting lab work done. You report that you have no symptoms of feeling cold or fatigue, denying weight gain or weight loss, and do not have palpitations or dizziness. Should your medical provider order blood work to evaluate the function of your thyroid gland, commonly known as TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone or T4, another component integral to thyroid function?
Well, according to the most recent report of the United States Preventive Services Task Force , a group of medical experts advising the government, the answer is not clear, as more clinical trials and scientific evidence will be necessary to ultimately make a better decision.
In doing so, the USPSTF reverted back to its most recent recommendation, issued in 2004, which advised against routine screening for thyroid disease in persons who are not pregnant, and otherwise healthy and asymptomatic, without significant risk factors for hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
As stated in todays report:
The Task Force concludes that current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for thyroid dysfunction in nonpregnant, asymptomatic adults.
However, it is important to note is that these updated recommendations do not apply to those persons who have symptoms such as weight gain, weight loss, palpitations, fatigue, or skin changes.
The report continues:
Is Your Thyroid Normal Or Is It Time To Get Checked
The incidence of thyroid disease seems to be rising dramatically. But we often dismiss the symptoms as simply the effects of a busy life. Is your thyroid normal or is it time to see your doctor?
Source: Best Health, September 2009
Most women have no idea why theyre beginning to gain weight, to feel blue, to crave naps at the strangest times. They dont understand why their periods are getting markedly lighter or suddenly heavier. They figure their hair is thinning or coarsening due to diet or age. They certainly arent aware that theyre experiencing symptoms of thyroid disease, which is now thought to be affecting as much as 10 percent of the North American population, with women at least four times as likely to suffer as men.
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You’re More Sensitive To Cold Or Heat Or You Sweat A Lot
Since one of the things the thyroid does is regulate body temperature, if it is malfunctioning, you may notice it with how you feel when it comes to the cold and heat. The Mayo Clinic cites both “sweating” and “increased sensitivity to heat” as symptoms of hyperthyroidism, while “increased sensitivity to cold” can be a sign of hypothyroidism.
Dr. Jason Cohen, a Los Angeles-based surgeon and expert in thyroid cancer treatment, told me that because “the thyroid maintains our homeostasis and keeps the body’s energy levels in check,” when it malfunctions, people may notice a difference in body temperature. When the “thyroid levels are low,” he said, “people typically feel cold all the time,” and when the levels are high, people may be “feeling hot or sweating.” So what women of a certain age may think of as menopausal hot flashes may have another cause.
What Imaging Tests Do Doctors Use To Diagnose And Find The Cause Of Thyroid Disease
Your health care professional may order one or more imaging tests to diagnose and find the cause of thyroid disease. A trained technician usually does these tests in your doctors office, outpatient center, or hospital. A radiologist, a doctor who specializes in medical imaging, reviews the images and sends a report for your health care professional to discuss with you.
Your Thyroid Does Change As You Age
As with any organ, your thyroid may start to function differently as you get older.
Thyroid dysfunction generally occurs in either early adulthood or between the ages of 40 to 50, Lee said. As we get into our 70s, TSH naturally increases, meaning that your thyroid hormone levels may shift to be a little lower. This seems to happen to protect our bodies as we age, with less stress on our heart and metabolic system.
This is important to note, Lee said, because it gives physicians a greater threshold to treat someone who is older who may have higher TSH levels. Alternatively, low TSH levels can be more harmful the older we get.
This isnt to say that if youre young, you dont need to think about your thyroid at all. Thyroid disorders can happen at many different ages, as can lumps.
We do know that the younger population, those in their 20s, 30s and 40s, can develop thyroid nodules, Rao said. The vast majority of these nodules, especially if theyre below one centimeter, are 95% of the time completely benign. But its still important to be aware that they are there, and periodically monitor them.
Things That Can Affect Your Thyroid Function Results
Fasting Generally, you dont need to fast before doing a thyroid function test. However, not fasting is sometimes linked to a lower TSH level. This means your results might not pick up on mild hypothyroidism where your TSH levels are only mildly elevated.
Medications Some medications can interfere with your results so its important to tell your doctor about any drugs you take.
Pregnancy Being pregnant can also influence your results. So if youre pregnant make sure to discuss this with your doctor.
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The Most Common Signs Of A Thyroid Disorder
There are two main reasons you and your doctor might want to start monitoring your thyroid. First, any family history of thyroid conditions, such as thyroid nodules, means you should keep an eye on yours as well. Additionally, it might be wise to do an exam if youre feeling an array of confusing symptoms where you just cant pinpoint the exact problem.
Fatigue, feeling cold or hot all the time, hair loss, sudden weight gain or loss, palpitations, diarrhea, or issues with your menstrual cycle can all signal a thyroid issue, said Sun Lee, an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, endocrinologist at Boston Medical Center, and member of the American Thyroid Association. The two main classifications of thyroid problems are hypothyroidism, where the gland is underactive, or hyperthyroidism, where its overactive. However, there can be other issues as well.
People often dont think they have a thyroid issue because the symptoms are thought of as synonymous with aging, said Cheryl Rosenfeld, managing partner of North Jersey Endocrine Consultants in Denville, New Jersey, and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology.
Many people pass off fatigue, weakness, loss of memory, dry skin or hair loss as expected effects of getting older, Rosenfeld said. However, it is important to rule out thyroid disease as a cause of these symptoms first.
Your Hair Is Thinning Or Brittle Dry And Fine
Most of the doctors I spoke with mentioned to pay attention to the state of your hair, as it can provide a clue as to the health of the rest of your body. The Mayo Clinic says that “fine, brittle hair” can be a symptom of hyperthyroidism, and “thinning hair” can indicate hypothyroidism. Dr. Goldfarb explained that “when your thyroid isn’t producing enough hormone,” you may experience hair loss. Dr. Dean said that you may have dry hair as well with hypothyroidism. “Your hair doesn’t grow as fast and your circulation is slowed down and doesn’t nourish your hair,” she explained.
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Onycholysis May Be An Early Indication That You Have Thyroid Disease
A 2019 case review published in The Pan African Medical Journal determined that onychiolysis can be associated with thyroid disease, especially hyperthyroidism. This is a condition in which your thyroid is overactive and produces more thyroid hormones than your body needs, per MedlinePlus. Other symptoms of hyperthyroidism include muscle weakness, rapid and irregular heartbeat, weight loss, and mood swings. “Any unexplained onycholysis should prompt the clinician to investigate the client for asymptomatic hyperthyroidism,” the researchers state in the report.
However, Spencer Kroll, MD, a board-certified internal medicine specialist, says that onycholysis may also result from hypothyroidismwhich is the opposite condition, where your thyroid is underactive and does not produce enough thyroid hormones for your body. If you also experience “unexpected weight gain, significant fatigue, missed menstrual periods, and hair problems,” you should get checked for hypothyroidism, Kroll says. And for more on this vital gland, take a look at the Subtle Signs of a Thyroid Problem Hiding in Plain Sight.
You’re Tired All The Time Or You Can’t Sleep
Insomnia can have many causes. But if you’re having a hard time sleeping, it could be hyperthyroidism, according to the Mayo Clinic. In addition, Dr. Block said, “I also find racing thoughts before bedtime often accompany hyperthyroidism.” That is something that we might think is psychological, but it can have a physical cause.
Another symptom to watch out for is fatigue, which can be a symptom of both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Dr. Ehsan Ali, the physician known as the Beverly Hills Concierge Doctor, told me that fatigue is a big sign you should get your thyroid checked.
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What Is Being Tested
A thyroid panel is a group of tests that may be ordered together to help evaluate thyroid gland function and to help diagnose thyroid disorders. The tests included in a thyroid panel measure the level of thyroid hormones in the blood.
A thyroid panel usually includes tests for:
Although rarely used these days, sometimes a T3 resin uptake test is included. T3RU and T4 can be used to calculate a free thyroxine index . This is another method for evaluating thyroid function. It corrects for changes in certain proteins that can affect total T4 levels.
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped organ that lies flat across the windpipe at the base of the neck that produces thyroid hormones, primarily T4 and some T3. These hormones travel throughout the body and regulate the metabolism by telling the cells in the body how fast to use energy and produce proteins. Most of the hormone produced by the thyroid is T4. This hormone is relatively inactive, but it is converted into the much more active T3 in the liver and other tissues.
Almost all of the T3 and T4 circulating in the blood is bound to protein. The small portions that are not bound are called “free” and are the biologically active forms of the hormones. Lab tests can measure the amount of free T3 or free T4 or the total T3 or total T4 in the blood.
The body has an elaborate feedback system to control the amount of T4 and T3 in the blood.
You Have Depression Memory Issues Nervousness Or Irritability
This is one of the most frustrating things about not being diagnosed with a thyroid issue. You may be depressed, have memory issues, or be annoyed or panicky all the time, and you think it’s psychological instead of physical. Dr. Romy Block, a Chicago-area endocrinologist, told me that “mood changes ” can indicate that your thyroid is out of whack. The Mayo Clinic cites depression as a symptom of hypothyroidism, but it can also manifest in hyperthyroidism, as one counselor wrote in Psychology Today, and as a patient case study on the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website shows.
Other things to look out for include “nervousness, anxiety and irritability,” which the Mayo Clinic says may be a sign of hyperthyroidism. And Dr. Block told me that “a common symptom of hypothyroidism is memory loss,” so if you feel like you’re being too forgetful these days, there might be a reason.
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Your Weight Suddenly Changes Or You’re Always Hungry
Dr. Block told me that “most people recognize weight changes as the primary symptom of thyroid problems,” although the endocrinologist said “it is often not the first sign to appear.” That’s because the thyroid regulates our metabolism, so if that goes awry, so can our weight.
The Mayo Clinic lists “sudden weight loss, even when your appetite and the amount and type of food you eat remain the same or even increase” as a primary symptom of hyperthyroidism. And weight gain that people might attribute to other factors, such as getting older, may possibly be hypothyroidism.
Where Should I Get A Hormone Balance Test
Hormone balance tests can be performed in a variety of settings. Many people first get their hormones tested by their primary care doctor or gynecologist. Others prefer to go straight to a lab facility. While both of these methods can garner accurate results, we recommend getting your hormones tested by a hormone health specialist. These practitioners will have the training and experience necessary to determine which tests are right for you and are experts at both interpreting your results and providing treatment.
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What Should I Do If I Have A Hormonal Imbalance
The testing is complete, the results are in, and it appears as though you may be experiencing some kind of hormone imbalance or age-related hormone change. While this may be frightening, its important to remember that hormone imbalances are often easily resolved.
Depending on the severity and the cause of your hormone issue, you may be able to resolve the issue naturally via careful lifestyle adjustments. In other cases, you may consider replacing the hormones your body is lacking in order to restore balance. This treatment option is called hormone replacement therapy, and its a very common first line of defense against hormone problems of all kinds.
A good hormone health practitioner will help you understand your treatment options and create a comprehensive plan that makes sense for you. With their support, you can find the best path toward symptom relief and optimal health.
If you are interested in hormone testing, BodyLogicMD can help. The practitioners in the BodyLogicMD network are experts in hormone replacement therapy and dedicated to helping patients achieve hormonal balance. Using a functional approach to medicine, each patient is treated as a whole individual, receiving nutrition and lifestyle counseling in addition to any necessary medications. If you need a hormone balance test or are looking for a specialist to interpret the results, contact a local practitioner today. Or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz to better understand the impact of hormones.
How To Know When To Request Thyroid Tests
In our new Butterfly Club support group, we’ll tackle every thyroid-related mystery you’ve told us you want solved, and demystify every function and health issue controlled by your butterfly-shaped thyroid gland.
That small gland shaped like a butterfly at the base of your neck has massive sway over your body and wellbeing. Approximately 20 million Americans have a thyroid condition such as hypothyroidism, with roughly 60 percent still unaware of it, according to the American Thyroid Association. Its also a key organ that keeps us alive and functioning. As part of National Thyroid Awareness Month, were getting the lowdown on this powerhouse gland, with its wide array of functions and symptoms that can snowball when somethings gone awry.
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Why You May Need A Thyroid Test
Women of all ages are more likely than men to have low thyroid hormone levels. However, many of their symptoms are attributed to other conditions or written off as a consequence of aging.
A blood test for levels of TSH is the most sensitive test for determining whether you have hypothyroidism. Most laboratories use 0.45 5.00 mIU/L as a normal reference range for TSH. People with TSH between 5.00 and 9.99 mIU/L often have no symptoms , but some do. Another test called T4 will be done if your TSH is in this range. A low level of T4 usually means you will benefit from thyroid hormone replacement.
Many people with hypothyroidism or subclinical hypothyroidism aren’t aware anything is wrong because they haven’t been tested. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force doesn’t recommend thyroid screening because it hasn’t found sufficient evidence that testing thyroid hormone levels in large groups of people without symptoms is cost-effective. Dr. Garber agrees, and suggests a different approachtesting asymptomatic people who are most likely to develop thyroid disease and benefit from treatment.
Treating subclinical hypothyroidism with synthetic thyroid hormone may reduce the risk of developing more serious problems like cardiovascular disease. They note that low thyroid hormone can cause a high cholesterol level and treatment with thyroid hormone may make statin therapy unnecessary.