If you’ve been experiencing some of these symptoms, you might actually have a thyroid problem. While it’s nothing to totally panic about, it does need to be addressed. An estimated 30 million Americans suffer from a thyroid disorder every day, with nearly half as silent sufferers yet to be diagnosed.
While the exact causes of thyroid problems are largely unknown, women are about 10 times more likely than men to be diagnosed with a condition. And since one in eight women develop a thyroid disorder during their lifetime, it is essential to decipher the signs early on and seek help from your doctor.
What is a Thyroid?
In what might be the prettiest shaped organ ever, our thyroid is a tiny butterfly-shaped gland located above the Adam’s apple. It can have a significant impact on a long list of bodily functions, including the regulation of metabolic processes like heartbeat, growth, body temperature, weight, energy and sleep.
Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism are caused by too few or too many thyroid-stimulating hormones, or TSH. Since these hormones are responsible for proper functioning, this results in a wide range of symptoms.
As the number one symptom doctors see, fatigue and lack of energy are common signs of a thyroid disorder. If you’re still tired after a full night’s sleep, that could be evidence of an under-active thyroid. When the thyroid doesn’t secrete enough hormones, it slows down the cells and muscles that push our “rise-and-shine” signals.
Lack of Focus and Forgetfulness
We all have days where we can’t focus or remember where we placed that important item—let’s blame sleep deprivation or overworking! But apt cognitive functioning is a clear indicator of a healthy thyroid. With hyperthyroidism, we experience a lack of focus and with hypothyroidism, we experience forgetfulness.
Change in Appetite and Weight Gain
According to the medical journal Hippokratia, 72% of people with hypothyroidism claim weight gain. With a change in appetite or weight gain attributed to an overactive or under-active thyroid, you might feel hunger pangs frequently—even if you eat healthy and regularly exercise. Depending on the severity, the American Thyroid Association reports five to 10 pounds of weight gain may be associated with thyroid conditions.
Low Sex Drive
If you feel like you’ve lost interest in sex and have no desire to get your car out of park, this low libido effect might be a result of an under-active thyroid. A lack of passion can also be considered a side effect of thyroid problems, such as low energy and weight gain.
If you feel unusually depressed, you might have an under-active thyroid. The lack of TSH assembly can have a substantial effect on serotonin in the brain—the enzyme responsible for all those “feel good” emotions. When our system sinks to low levels of production, it’s no surprise our mood drops too.
Dry Skin, Hair and Nails
'Tis the season for dry and itchy skin, but a change in texture can also be an sign of a slow metabolism, which can reduce sweating caused by too little hormone production. We know that without adequate moisture, our skin becomes dry and flaky. But when TSH aren’t being produced effectively, 77% of us end up with all-over dryness, from dry skin, to brittle and ridged nails and even thinning hair—a symptom experienced by 41% of sufferers.
Any way you look at it, our periods are a monthly annoyance. But if changes in your cycle include longer periods with heavier flows reminiscent of the crime scenes from CSI, it could be a sign of a short supply of hormones that indicate hypothyroidism. On the contrary, shorter periods that are lighter and further apart are a result of hyperthyroidism. If not treated, thyroid conditions can obstruct ovulation, impair fertility and ultimately, complicate pregnancy.