Do you know what your thyroid does? Do you know where it is in your body? For many people, the location and purpose of this important little gland, which acts like the throttle for almost all of your body systems, is a mystery. Yet as much as 9% of the population has thyroid problems – which can wreak havoc on most of your major internal systems, upsetting your digestive system, interfering with your cardiovascular system, and throwing off your metabolism. Thyroid hormones can affect the function of everything from your heart and lungs to your emotional well-being.
Thyroid Problems Revealed
Your thyroid is an endocrine gland, and the hormones that it produces, thyroxine and triiodothyronine, often referred to collectively as thyroid hormone, help control the pace of all of your physiological body functions. When the thyroid produces too little hormone, things in your body can slow down too much. When it produces too much thyroid hormone, some of your body systems go into overdrive.
Either situation -- too much or too little thyroid hormone -- hurts your health.
Too Much = Hyperthyroid
When the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone, it is overactive. The condition is called hyperthyroidism. With hyperthyroidism, all of your major body systems are in overdrive, which can result in a host of unpleasant symptoms, from anxiety to diarrhea.
Too Little = Hypothyroid
When the thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone, it is underactive. The condition is called hypothyroidism. In this scenario, all of your major body systems function too slowly, resulting in symptoms ranging from weight gain to depression.
Symptoms of Thyroid Problems
The tricky thing about a problematic thyroid is that many of the symptoms that may result from hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism are easy to dismiss as non-symptoms or as the result of some other condition or lifestyle factor. For example, weight gain -- a symptom of hypothyroidism -- is a common problem. Many people experience weight gain as they age and usually attribute it to such factors as a reduction in activity levels or an increase in calorie intake. Few people would think that their weight gain -- particularly unexplained weight gain -- could be a potential sign of an underlying thyroid problem. And alone, weight gain probably isn't enough to cause thyroid concerns. However, coupled with some other easily dismissed or often overlooked symptoms, such as fatigue and depression, it could be. Unfortunately, someone could have all the classic symptoms of hyper- or hypothyroidism and still not be aware they have a medical condition.
Do you have a cluster of symptoms that has slipped under your health radar?
Consider if you have recently experienced any of the symptoms listed. Take note of any symptoms that mark a departure from what is typical or normal for you:
- I'm always tired or lack energy.
- My skin is dry, coarse.
- My hair is dry, coarse.
- I'm very sensitive to cold temperatures.
- My periods are heavy and irregular.
- My face is puffy.
- I've gained weight unexpectedly.
- I feel really down, depressed.
- I'm experiencing muscle cramps or muscle pain and tenderness.
- My heart rate is slower than normal.
- I'm constipated.
- I'm struggling with infertility.
- I feel slow mentally.
- I have a goiter (swelling of the neck below the Adam's apple).
- My libido has decreased.
- I've lost weight unexpectedly.
- I have lost weight despite an increase in appetite.
- I feel irritable and nervous.
- I feel weakness and tremors in my muscles.
- My periods are irregular.
- I have difficulty sleeping.
- I don't see as clearly or my eyes are irritated.
- I have an enlarged thyroid (goiter).
- I'm very sensitive to warm temperatures.
- I have heart palpitations or rapid heart beats.
- I have more frequent bowel movements or diarrhea.
- My blood pressure is high.
- My heart rate is high.
- I'm often sweaty.
- My hair is thinning.
If you have been experiencing several of the symptoms listed above, have a conversation with your physician about these concerns.