Around the world, people suffer from thyroid problems. In the U.S. alone there are about 59 million Americans that have thyroid issues, and the worst part? The majority of them don't even know it! Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that can greatly affect your health. You might notice that your weight, mood or energy levels have changed greatly over the last few weeks or months. Those signs could be indicators of a thyroid issue.
When it comes to your thyroid, there are two main disorders that could affect you. There is hyperthyroidism, which means your body is producing too much thyroid hormone. On the other end of the spectrum is hypothyroidism, which means your body is not producing enough thyroid hormone. Your body is a delicate balance of hormones, and having too much or not enough can really send your body out of whack. It's especially concerning for women, who are ten times more likely than men to develop a thyroid problem, especially for women over 35. Watch out for the following signs, which may be an indicator that you have a thyroid problem!
>> Read more: The Skinny on Thyroid Health
Muscle and Joint Pains: Those aches in your muscles and joints may be a sign of hypothyroidism! Be sure to watch out for weakness in the arms and carpal tunnel syndrome in the arms or hands. Also, watch out for tingling, numbness or actual pain in arms, legs, feet and hands. Over time, when your body doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone, it can damage the nerves that send signals to your brain and spinal cord throughout your body. (via About Health)
Hair and Skin Changes: Hair loss is associated with both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Hair tends to become brittle, coarse and dry for women who have hypothyroidism. It can also break off and fall out easily. Your skin is more likely to become coarse, thick, dry and scaly. For women who have hyperthyroidism, severe hair loss can also occur along with fragile and thin skin. (via About Health)
Bowel Problems: With hypothyroidism you can experience constipation, and on the other end of the spectrum, when your body is producing too much thyroid hormone, you can experience diarrhea. (via About Health)
Menstrual Irregularities: When it comes to your hormones, your period is of course going to be affected! If you have hypothyroidism, you body isn't making enough thyroid hormone and it can cause your period to be heavier and give you more cramps. On the other hand, an excess of your thyroid hormone causes shorter periods that are spaced further apart and can be lighter. (via About Health)
>> Read more: 11 Things That Mess With Your Period
Family History: Be sure to check if anyone in your family has had a thyroid problem before. You are at a higher risk of developing hypo- or hyperthyroidism if there is a history of it. It's also possible that no one in your family is aware that there have been thyroid issues, because it's often referred to as "a goiter" or "gland trouble." Next time, pay attention if anyone mentions weight gain, goiter or glandular conditions. (via About Health)
Cholesterol Issues: Low cholesterol levels have already been connected with hyperthyroidism. Again, on the other end of the spectrum, high cholesterol is connected with hypothyroidism. High cholesterol is usually a direct connection to thyroid issues when it is unresponsive to dieting, exercise and medication. (via About Health)
Depression and Anxiety: Hypothyroidism can slow down your body and make you gain weight. With that can come depression, and it can range anywhere from mild to severe. Hyperthyroidism can bring the complete opposite: anxiety. You can also experience panic attacks when your thyroid works overtime. Your system is constantly flooded with this feeling of having to go, go, go all the time! You feel like you just can't relax and your body is in hyperdrive. (via About Health)
Fatigue or Extra Energy: Sometimes you'll get eight to 10 hours of sleep and still feel exhausted. You feel as though you need to sleep another eight to 10 more hours. This isn't necessarily a side effect of depression, but a side effect of a thyroid issue. Your thyroid isn't sending enough thyroid hormone through your bloodstream and cells. It's supposed to send a message to your muscles to "get going!" This is the number one symptom that doctors see in their patients when they start to notice a thyroid problem. (via About Health)
Messed Up Sleep Schedule: The extra fatigue or need to just keep going can really mess with your sleeping schedule. You either want to sleep more and more each night or have trouble sleeping altogether like waking up multiple times in one night. The amount of sleep you get each night is important to your day-to-day life. It can really affect the quality and amount of work you get done each day. (via Health)
>> Read more: 7 Ways Lacks of Sleep Affects Your Health
Weight Changes: Having thyroid issues really messes up your hormone system, which makes losing weight even more difficult. You may have started exercising or dieting but still aren't losing weight! This can be frustrating, but it can also be a sign of hypothyroidism. The other side of thyroid issues — hyperthyroidism — has you eating the same food you always eat, and yet you're losing more weight than you normally would. Odd weight changes that can't be explained are a sure sign that you should talk to your doctor about having a thyroid problem. (via About Health)
Altered Appetite and Taste Buds: With too much thyroid hormone in your system, it makes you hungry all the time. All that hormone running through your system though burns a lot more of your caloric intake than normal though. So, all those calories you just ate because you're more hungry doesn't cause weight gain. Having less of that hormone in your system means that your taste buds may change. This could mean foods don't taste or smell the same as you remember. (via Health)
Brain Feels Fuzzy: When you forget things or your brain doesn't work as fast as it used to, you just rack this up to your age or not having enough coffee, right? That may not be the reason, though! Not having enough of that thyroid hormone can make your brain fuzzy. Hypothyroidism can cause you to feel foggy and forgetful. Don't worry, though, this isn't permanent. Many patients that have been treated have found that this feeling goes away pretty quickly after finding the right treatment. (via Health)
Dry Skin: Having not enough thyroid hormone in your body can cause you to sweat less. Yes, that may sound amazing because really no one wants to sweat and start smelling funky. Sweat is actually helpful, though, because without it, your skin starts to dry out and become flaky. Your nails can change by becoming brittle and developing ridges. (via Health)
High Blood Pressure: Both types of thyroid conditions can cause high blood pressure. People with hypothyroidism are about two to three times more likely to develop hypertension. Doctors say that because of the low about of thyroid hormone in your system can cause your heart to beat slower, which affects your pumping strength and blood vessel wall flexibility. This causes the rise in blood pressure. (via Health)
Feel Excessively Cold or Warm: An underactive thyroid causes your system to slow down. This means less energy being burned by cells and explains why you're cold all the time. It's correct to assume that the opposite happens with an overactive thyroid. More thyroid hormone in your body means your system speeds up and results in more energy being burned. If you're warm all the time and sweat a lot no matter what conditions, you may have hyperthyroidism. (via Health)
For more information on Hypothyroidism, check out this Ultimate Guide from our friends at VeryWell.com.