On Your Health

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How To Recognize The Signs of Thyroid Malfunction


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Although it’s just a tiny butterfly-shaped gland at the front of your neck, the thyroid plays a powerful role in helping your body function, just like your heart and brain. The thyroid produces hormones that regulate blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate and weight, and more. Thyroid issues are extremely common (some studies say women over age 35 have a 30 percent chance of developing thyroid problems) and can leave you feeling grumpy, bloated and sluggish. Yet symptoms are often so subtle treatment is never sought. Could your fatigue, weight gain, racing heart or even brittle nails be attributed to a thyroid problem?

Signs and symptoms of thyroid problems

The thyroid produces hormones vital to almost every organ. These hormones regulate cell function and metabolism to ensure proper function of the brain, heart, digestive system, musculoskeletal system and more. How well your thyroid is operating is interconnected with almost every system in your body. When the thyroid produces too much (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism) of these hormones, symptoms can become evident in various ways.
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Abnormal sensitivity to cold
  • Heavier menstrual periods
  • Slower heart rate
  • Muscle tenderness
  • Joint stiffness
  • Dry skin
  • Hoarseness
  • Puffiness in the face
  • Depressed mood
  • High blood cholesterol levels
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • More frequent bowel movements
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Increased sweating or heat sensitivity
  • Lighter or less frequent menstrual periods
  • Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Increased appetite
  • Trouble sleeping

When to get checked for thyroid issues

If you exhibit any of the symptoms mentioned, your physician can run a simple test to determine whether your thyroid is functioning effectively. Many symptoms of thyroid issues mimic the symptoms of menopause, so it’s important to know the true cause of certain problems. While thyroid issues are most common in women older than 60, anyone at any age can be susceptible. Anyone who has a family history of thyroid disease, a current autoimmune diagnosis, or who has received radiation in the upper chest or neck region should have their thyroid levels checked regularly.

Steps to take after a thyroid diagnosis

Once identified by your doctor, thyroid problems are usually easily corrected. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can often be treated effectively with synthetic hormone supplementation or anti-thyroid medications, usually taken in pill form. Your doctor may prescribe a different treatment option, but no matter your diagnosis, taking extra dietary precautions is helpful for those with thyroid issues. A diet rich in protein, calcium, magnesium, and iodine supports thyroid function and can help combat the effects of thyroid-related muscle and bone loss. You want to be sure you are receiving enough of all the B vitamins, vitamin A, and vitamin C. If you believe your thyroid may not be functioning well, make it a priority to speak to your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, you can use INTEGRIS’s Find a Doctor advanced search feature to find a physician who meets your needs.

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