Wrapped around your trachea (windpipe) just beneath your voice box (larynx) and Adam’s apple lies a two-inch wide, butterfly-shaped organ called the thyroid gland. As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid works alongside the pituitary gland to produce thyroid hormones.
It all starts when the pituitary gland senses that the body needs thyroid hormone. It produces and releases thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which signals the thyroid to produce thyroid hormones – triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) – and release them into the bloodstream.
Now in the bloodstream, thyroid hormones play a vital role in several different functions and processes inside the body – including metabolism, heart rate, cholesterol levels, body temperature, body weight, muscle contraction, and much more. When functioning properly, the thyroid does a lot for you.
Most Common Warning Signs of Thyroid Disease
While many people have a healthy thyroid and won’t experience any negative symptoms as a result of thyroid health, not everyone is as fortunate. Like any other organ, the thyroid gland isn’t perfect and some people will experience abnormalities and inconsistencies from time to time.
Two of the most common thyroid disease today include hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Other thyroid diseases and conditions include Grave’s disease, Hashimoto’s disease, thyroid nodules, thyroid cancer, and much more. If you have been taking thyroid medications like Synthroid or Levothyroxine and you feel like the medication is no longer working, or it has just stopped working, there may be several reasons that I have outlined in my article “10 reasons why your thyroid medication feels like it has stopped working.”
Understanding the common warning signs of thyroid disease can help you detect issues in their early stages – which often leads to the best treatment plan. Let’s take a closer look at seven of the most common signs that your thyroid gland isn’t functioning normally or properly:
Gastrointestinal & Digestive Issues
Thyroid hormones are instrumental in the digestive process and influence the rate at which food moves through the GI tract, so it’s no surprise that thyroid disease leads to digestive issues. In fact, it’s one of the major differentiating points between an overactive and underactive thyroid.
For example, hyperthyroid patients often experience diarrhea (loose stools), while hypothyroid patients often experience constipation (hard stools).
While many people are on the lookout for physical changes, it’s important not to overlook the mental changes. For example, many hyperthyroid patients experience anger and anxiety throughout the day, while hypothyroid patients often experience depression or sadness.
Either way, it’s clear that thyroid disease can lead to behavioral changes and result in you distancing yourself from others – even from close friends and family members.
The thyroid gland plays an essential role in metabolism, the body’s process of breaking down food for energy. As such, it’s no surprise that thyroid disease can lead to unexplained fluctuations with your body weight – especially with an underactive or overactive thyroid.
For example, hypothyroid patients often experience unexplained weight gain, while hyperthyroid patients often experience unexplained weight loss.
Skin Health & Hair Health
Believe it or not, the health of your skin and hair can help you detect thyroid disease in its early stages. For example, hypothyroid patients often experience dry skin, while hyperthyroid patients often experience oily skin – as well as acne and sudden breakouts on the skin.
In addition to skin health, hyperthyroid patients often experience thinning of their hair or hair loss. This is something that isn’t experienced in hypothyroid patients.
We all know the thyroid plays a vital role in regulating body temperature, especially considering its impact on metabolism. It’s also due to the thyroid hormone’s ability to dilate blood vessels, allowing more heat to escape the body. As a result, your body temperature rises and drops.
For example, hyperthyroid patients often experience a rise in body temperature (they feel warmer), while hypothyroid patients often experience a reduction in body temperature (they feel colder).
Although both hypothyroid and hyperthyroid patients can experience vision changes, it seems to be more common in hyperthyroidism. Common changes to your vision and eye health include watery eyes, dry eyes, red eyes, difficulty closing your eyelids, and bulging eyeballs.
Your doctor will likely rule out other potential causes of these symptoms, but it’s not rare for them to appear as a result of thyroid disease – especially an overactive thyroid.
We mentioned earlier how thyroid disease can impact your mood, but it can also impact your cognitive function – how well your brain functions. These symptoms of Brain Fog are present in both hypothyroid and hyperthyroid patients and largely impact memory and ability to focus.
As you can likely imagine, this can affect your ability to perform well in school, at work, and even impact the relationships you have with family members or friends.
Noticeable Symptoms of an Underactive Thyroid
An underactive thyroid, also known as hypothyroidism, occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease. Let’s take a look at some of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism:
- Extreme fatigue
- Depression or mood changes
- Dry skin, brittle nails, Hair loss
- Irregular period (women)
- Yellowish hue to the skin
- Unexplained weight gain
- Difficulty focusing or cloudy memory
Treatment for hypothyroidism generally involves increasing thyroid hormone levels in the body through medication and certain lifestyle changes, but this treatment can grow quite complex in some patients. This is especially true with patients diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease.
Noticeable Symptoms of an Overactive Thyroid
An overactive thyroid, also known as hyperthyroidism, occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Grave’s disease. Let’s take a look at some of the most common signs and other symptoms of hyperthyroidism:
- Fast heartbeat
- Feeling of anxiety
- Itchy or red skin (Hives)
- Thinning hair or hair loss
- Unexplained weight loss
- Frequently feeling hot
- Changes to your Cholesterol levels
Hyperthyroidism treatment generally involves slowing down the production and release of thyroid hormone through medication and certain lifestyle changes. It also involves finding the root cause of the overactive thyroid and treating that to ensure the issue doesn’t come back.
If you would like to learn more about thyroid disorders, are experiencing common thyroid symptoms, or need help treating your existing thyroid condition, I’m ready and willing to help. Contact me today to schedule your free, 15-minute consultation – We can talk more about some of the Root Causes behind why your thyroid is failing.