No – it isn’t a bow tie – it is your thyroid gland!
More than 20 million Americans suffer from thyroid problems; half of them don’t even know it. Could you? In recognition of National Women’s Health Week, learn the 10 thyroid symptoms you can’t afford to miss.
Thyroid disease is tricky to diagnose. Its symptoms are vague and mimic those of menopause, pregnancy and chronic health disorders.
Yet 1 in 8 women will develop a thyroid condition in their lifetime. About 20% of those diagnosed are menopausal women.
The thyroid is a small endocrine gland in the neck, but it has a big role in regulating your body’s performance and functions, from your weight to temperature to how sharp you are. When it doesn’t work right, you feel out of whack.
The gland, which produces thyroid hormone, can be underactive (hypothyroidism) and put out too little hormone, causing the body’s systems to slow down. Or it can be overactive (hyperthyroidism) and produce too much, which causes them to speed up.
A dietary deficiency of iodine in the diet can cause hypothyroidism, but the most common culprit is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid) – an autoimmune disorder that often runs in families. Grave’s disease – also an autoimmune disorder – is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism.
If you have one or more of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from thyroid disease:
- Feeling Fatigue or Hyper Stress, giving birth, having small children, menopause or being busy all can make you tired. Fatigue is also the most common symptom of hypothyroidism and sometimes occurs with hyperthyroidism.
Women with hyperthyroidism may feel hyper or jittery, and their hands may shake. Bulging eyes and double vision could be the first signs of Grave’s disease.
- Unexplained Weight Gain or Loss Many women with an underactive thyroid pack on pounds. And those with hyperthyroidism may lose weight without blinking an eye.
You might blame normal body changes, such as menopause or having a baby. But if the scale continues to fluctuate with no difference in your activity level or diet, get a thyroid blood test.
- Changes in Your Body’s ‘Thermostat’ Having hot flashes? Menopause may not be to blame. If your thyroid is overactive, you may feel sweaty and overheated in temperatures that didn’t bother you before. Or you may not be able to tolerate heat at all. If you’re running colder than usual, it could be an underactive thyroid.
- Bowel Changes The thyroid hormone also regulates your bowels. If you have hypothyroidism, you may develop constipation and have hard stools.
With hyperthyroidism, you may have more bowel movements per day than usual, or they may be loose and watery. If you haven’t changed your diet and loose stools continue, get your thyroid tested. 5. Changes in Your Pulse Thyroid hormone can also affect your heart rate. A woman with hypothyroidism may have a slowed pulse. An overactive thyroid may cause a rapid pulse, even palpitations. Neither disorder typically results in a dangerous heart rate. Problems can arise if a thyroid disorder is left untreated too long, but usually by that time, other body systems will have been affected enough to cause other symptoms first.
Other causes may be blamed, such as menopause, which can increase heart rate, and regular cardio exercise, which can slow it down. But don’t ignore heart rate changes – get your thyroid checked.
- Changes in Skin Dry skin is a dead giveaway that your thyroid’s underactive, especially if it gets worse despite efforts to keep it moist. Hypothyroidism commonly causes very dry skin that easily flakes off.
But because this problem also occurs with aging (particularly after 50) and many young women have dry skin, it’s often treated without considering a thyroid problem.
Women with hyperthyroidism frequently have warm, sweaty skin. They also may sweat more than usual.
In hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism caused by Grave’s disease, edema or swelling can occur over the front of the lower legs. It may feel like thickening of the skin, which may also darken in color.
- Hair Loss or Thinning Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can affect your locks. (Interestingly, the first person to notice Dr. Horn’s hypothyroidism was her hair stylist, who told her that her hair’s texture was changing.) With an underactive thyroid, you can also lose the outside part of the eyebrows – the part nearest to your temples.
Because hair loss and thinning can also occur during and after pregnancy, as well as with menopause, it’s easy to ignore it. But thyroid-related hair loss on the head and the eyebrows can be reversed with treatment.
- Depression It’s easy to chalk up symptoms of depression – feeling blue, crying easily, not sleeping or loss of libido – to life issues such as stress, menopause or having a new baby. But several factors, including thyroid disease, can be the cause.
There’s a form of hyperthyroidism called “apathetic hyperthyroidism,” which can cause depression as well. If you feel depressed for more than a couple weeks, talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling and get your thyroid checked.
- Brain Fog Do you feel like you just can’t think or remember anything? Lack of sleep, depression, PMS or stress can deplete brain power – but so can a thyroid disorder.
With an underactive thyroid, your thought processes may be sluggish. And an overactive thyroid can cause racing thoughts.
Either way, you might feel as if your mind is cluttered or “fogged in.” Treatment may help you think clearly again.
- Aches and Muscle Weakness Joint aches and muscle pain can signal an underactive thyroid, particularly if you haven’t been exercising excessively or straining your body. And even if you do hit the gym regularly, think of your thyroid gland if you start noticing unusual aches and pains.
An overactive thyroid can cause muscle weakness, particularly in the leg and arm muscles closest to your body. It’s suddenly an effort to raise your arm to brush your hair, or it might be difficult to get up from a chair without pushing off with your arms. Other diseases can cause such symptoms, but think hyperthyroidism.
By Robin H. Miller, M.D. and Janet Horn, M.D., LifeScript Women’s Health Experts –
September 22, 2014
Bounce 2 Health is going to be offering ultrasound screening days. Call for an appointment – you can get your thyroid scanned for just $70 (regularly $110). You do need an appointment. You will get the results right away! No prescription necessary. No preparation needed for the thyroid ultrasound. The test takes less than 15 minutes!
Call (714)754-4003 for more information and to schedule your diagnostic screening.