Unusual signs your thyroid may be out of whack
As many as 20 million Americans of all ages have thyroid disease, and at least half remain undiagnosed.
Women are at a much higher risk of developing thyroid problems than men, with nearly one in eight women developing a thyroid disease in their lifetime.
“It’s important for people to know and recognize the symptoms of thyroid disease, especially women,” says Dr. Mehul Vora, an endocrinologist with Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “Unfortunately, the most common symptoms of thyroid disease – things like extreme exhaustion or unexpected weight gain or loss – are easily overlooked or attributed to stress or lifestyle.”
Below, Dr. Vora offers insight into three less common symptoms to which women should pay special attention.
The thyroid’s primary job is to produce hormones and regulate your body’s metabolism. In women, it can also affect the menstrual cycle.
Hypothyroidism (when the thyroid is not working hard enough) can cause periods to be longer, heavier and more painful than usual. On the flip side, hyperthyroidism (when the thyroid is working too hard) can cause lighter periods or even stop them altogether.
“The risk of thyroid problems increases as a person ages, so unfortunately, women can easily mistake these symptoms as menopausal,” says Dr. Vora. “In younger women, unaddressed issues can also affect their fertility and ability to get pregnant.”
Mood issues & brain fog
Mood swings, anxiety and depression can be worsened by an abnormal thyroid level. An underactive thyroid can also cause forgetfulness or “brain fog,” making it hard to focus in your daily life. An overactive thyroid can make you anxious, and cause palpitations or an irregular heartbeat.
“If you’re struggling with fatigue or depression, are feeling distracted and forgetful, or if you show any other symptoms such as weight gain or excessive weight loss, your thyroid could be playing a role,” says Dr. Vora. “A simple blood test by your physician may give you answers.”
A slow thyroid isn’t producing as much hormone as it should, and this can cause trouble in your gut in the form of constipation. If your thyroid is too active, it can have the opposite effect, causing diarrhea and frequent trips to the bathroom.
“Constipation can be caused by a huge number of things, so you shouldn’t jump to conclusions and assume you have thyroid problems from the start,” says Dr. Vora. “If, however, the constipation or diarrhea is an ongoing problem, you should discuss it with your doctor so you can get to the bottom of it.”
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.
In addition to the stated symptoms itchy, peeling hands and feet. I went to my doctor with these symptoms and was told it was washerwoman hands. I was to stop getting my hands in hot soapy water which I did, but it persisted. I went into thyroid storm and end up in the ICU for a week! I had Graves’ disease and had to have my thyroid destroyed with radiation. Now I have AFib and take a hormone replacement pill every day.
I AM NOW RECUPERATING FROM THYROID SURGERY 10/20 /2016. ALSO HAD A HYSTERECTOMY IN 1996. I WAS PLACED ON ESTROGEN FOR YEARS. NOT ONCE WAS THE THYROID MENTIONED ALTHOUGH MY MOTHER HAD UNDERGONE HYSTERECTOMY AND THYROID SURGERY. I ALSO HAD A CERVICAL DYSECTOMY. THANK YOU FOR ENLIGHTING ME ON THIS SUBJECT. ?????
Smiley. My thyroid concern is that I have been seen by an endocrinologist who continues to say we will watch it. A wait and see approach. Not good!! I have a goiter and several nodules on my thyroid. Because my blood tests are in the normal range my doctor tells me I’m ok that’s not good. Well it’s good I’m in the normal range but it’s not good that I have a goiter. I really need doctor who can answer my why questions. A functional doctor. Can you help?
Sub-clinical hypothyroidism is akin to “pre hypothyroidism”. One’s TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is a bit elevated, but the thyroid hormone levels /T4/T3, are normal. No medical treatment is needed. The TSH level is rechecked approximately once a year, or sooner if overt hypothyroidism signs or symptoms develop in the intervening year. A goiter and benign thyroid nodules may exist, but are not usually related to any sub-clinical hypothyroidism. Goiters aren’t “treated” or dangerous, in someone with enough iodine in their diet. Nodules, if growing are biopsied to rule out cancer, or evaluated with an ultrasound or other image process. There are “cold” nodules and “hot” nodules on a specific imaging test. Ask your provider why certain aspects of your thyroid aren’t concerning. I explain it like this to my patients: At 57 I have gray hairs and age spots, I may not like them, but they are not signs of disease. Some changes are just signs that you’re still breathing.