The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, but its impact on our overall well-being is far from small. The thyroid plays a crucial role in regulating numerous bodily functions, including metabolism, energy production, and hormone balance. When the thyroid isn’t functioning properly, it can lead to various health issues. The problem is that often, while the thyroid isn’t functioning optimally, it is not clinically a problem. This doesn’t mean, however, that it is not affecting your health and well-being. These are the signs that you should be paying more attention to your thyroid health.
Thyroid Health: Hyper- vs. Hypothyroidism
While both hypo- and hyperthyroidism involve problems with the thyroid gland, they are two different health problems with different ways to solve them. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid is overactive and produces too much thyroid hormone. This can cause a variety of symptoms, including muscle weakness and fatigue. Hypothyroidism, however, occurs when the thyroid is underactive and does not produce enough thyroid hormone. This can cause a variety of symptoms, also including muscle weakness and fatigue.
It’s important to note that subclinical versions of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism (where symptoms may be milder or barely noticeable) can still have significant impacts on overall well-being. Subtle symptoms, such as feeling fatigue or slight weight gain, should not be ignored, as they may be indicators of underlying thyroid issues. The issue is that when it is subclinical, you likely won’t receive any diagnosis or treatment plan. Though you may not have full-blown hyper- or hypothyroidism, the level to which you do have it can still affect your health and quality of life.
10 Signs You Should Pay More Attention To Your Thyroid Health
Whether or not you have a full-blown thyroid problem or you are experiencing subclinical issues, knowing the signs is the first step towards finding a solution. These are 10 signs to watch out for that your thyroid may not be functioning as it should.
1. Fatigue and Low Energy
Feeling constantly tired, despite getting enough sleep, could be a sign of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones, energy levels can plummet, leading to persistent fatigue.
2. Unexplained Weight Gain or Difficulty Losing Weight
A sudden and unexplained weight gain or struggling to lose weight despite a healthy diet and exercise could be linked to an underactive thyroid. Hypothyroidism slows down the metabolism, making it harder to burn calories effectively. On the other hand, hyperthyroidism can make you lose weight without trying. Unexplained weight loss, or difficulty maintaining your weight, can be a sign of hypothyroidism.
3. Hair Loss
Thyroid issues can often affect hair growth and may lead to thinning hair, hair loss, or brittle hair. If you notice a substantial amount of hair shedding, it might be worth investigating your thyroid health.
4. Changes in Mood or Depression
The thyroid hormones play a vital role in brain function and mental well-being. Imbalances in these hormones can lead to mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and even depression. Hypothyroidism, in particular, is associated with symptoms of depression.
5. Feeling Cold Easily
An underactive thyroid can affect blood circulation and body temperature regulation, leading to a constant feeling of being cold, particularly in the hands and feet. If you find yourself reaching for extra layers while others around you are comfortable, it might be worth checking your thyroid function.
6. Muscle and Joint Pain
Thyroid dysfunction can cause muscle and joint pain, stiffness, and weakness. This is especially true for individuals with hypothyroidism, where decreased thyroid hormone levels affect muscle and joint function.
7. Irregular Menstrual Cycles
An underactive thyroid can disrupt normal hormone fluctuations, leading to irregular or heavy menstrual periods in women. Additionally, thyroid issues can also affect fertility and cause difficulty in getting pregnant.
8. High Cholesterol
Hypothyroidism has been linked to elevated levels of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides. If you have unexplained high cholesterol levels, it may be worth investigating your thyroid health as a potential underlying cause.
9. Dry Skin and Brittle Nails
Your skin and nails can provide valuable clues about your thyroid health. Dry, flaky skin and brittle nails that break easily can be signs of an underactive thyroid.
Sluggish bowel movements or chronic constipation can be one of the many symptoms of an underactive thyroid. The decrease in thyroid hormones can slow down digestive processes, leading to difficulties in regular bowel movements.
Links Between Anxiety, Cold Hands, Muscle Pains, and Thyroid Health
There are indeed links between anxiety, cold hands, muscle pains, and thyroid health. Anxiety, along with mood swings, irritability, and depression, can be associated with both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Thyroid hormone imbalances can affect neurotransmitter function in the brain, leading to changes in mood and increased anxiety.
Cold hands and feet are common symptoms of an underactive thyroid. When the thyroid isn’t functioning optimally, blood circulation can be impaired, resulting in decreased blood flow to the extremities and a constant feeling of coldness in the hands and feet.
Muscle and joint pain, stiffness, and weakness can occur with both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism, in particular, can cause generalized muscle pain and weakness due to a decrease in thyroid hormone levels affecting muscle function.
The Bottom Line
Paying attention to your thyroid health is crucial for maintaining overall well-being. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned in this article or suspect that your thyroid may be functioning incorrectly, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional who can provide appropriate testing and guidance for managing thyroid health. Remember, early detection and proper treatment can make a significant difference in alleviating symptoms and improving your quality of life.
- “Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid): Everything You Need to Know.” Healthline. Kimberly Holland. February 1, 2024.
- “What Is Subclinical Hypothyroidism?” Healthline. Donna Christiano. February 2, 2023
- “Hypothyroidism Signs and Symptoms.” Everyday Health. Kristeen Cherney, PhD
- “Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).” Mayo Clinic