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Check Your Neck: Common Symptoms of Thyroid Disorders
In spite of the fact that it measures less than two inches in size, the thyroid gland plays a remarkably significant part in human health. Because of its central role in the endocrine system, which regulates the production and distribution of hormones in the body, even a minor glitch in thyroid function can cause major health problems.
Most people associate thyroid problems with metabolism, energy levels, and weight gain. While it’s true that these symptoms are common signs of one type of thyroid disorder, they represent only the proverbial tip of the iceberg when it comes to thyroid-related health problems.
Recent estimates indicate that over 20 million people in the United States alone suffer from some type of thyroid disorder. In addition, it is believed that 2 million people may have undiagnosed thyroid problems. When left untreated, thyroid disorders can result in major health disruptions, and, in severe cases, can even prove to be fatal.
On the other hand, when thyroid disorders are properly diagnosed and treated, they can often be satisfactorily controlled with daily medication, causing little or no long-term reduction of overall health or quality of life. The keys to maintaining your health with a thyroid disorder are early detection, constant vigilance, and consistent treatment.
If you feel like you or a loved one might be at risk for developing a thyroid disorder, it’s important to keep an eye out for any unusual symptoms that could be a sign of a problem. This week, we’ll take a look at some of the most common symptoms of thyroid disorders.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
The disorder known as hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is underactive and is thus unable to produce the amount of thyroid hormone that the body needs. Over time, insufficient levels of thyroid hormones can set off a chain reaction of chemical imbalances in the body, wreaking havoc on every major organ system and drastically impacting overall health.
Initially, hypothyroidism tends to manifest itself as a few annoying symptoms, such as fatigue or a lack of energy. In some cases, the thyroid hormone imbalance is so minor that you might not notice any symptoms at all. However, over time, untreated hypothyroidism can result in a number of adverse health problems, including obesity, heart disease, debilitating joint pain, and infertility.
Although cases of hypothyroidism have been documented in virtually every age group, women over the age of 50 stand the greatest risk of developing this disorder. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it’s important that you schedule a consultation with your doctor as soon as possible. Thyroid disorders are usually relatively easy to diagnose with just a few outpatient tests.
Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- fatigue, weakness, and exhaustion
- feeling lethargic and listless
- feelings of depression or hopelessness
- difficulty focusing and concentrating
- a sense of being in a mental fog
- sudden weight gain with no significant change in eating habits
- extreme difficulty losing weight or maintaining a weight loss
- skin problems, including itchiness, dryness, and coarse texture
- a change in hair texture, especially sudden frizziness and dryness
- hair loss or thinning hair
- constant feelings of coldness, no matter what the temperature is
- digestive difficulties, including indigestion and constipation
- muscle pains and cramps
- menstrual difficulties
- heavier, longer, and more frequent periods and cramps
- infertility or miscarriage
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
Although hypothyroidism is the most common form of thyroid disorder, the opposite condition – hyperthyroidism – is also a significant health problem. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is too active, causing an overabundance of thyroid hormone in the body.
Just as hypothyroidism slows down many bodily functions, hyperthyroidism has precisely the reverse effect – it actually boosts the metabolism and speeds up many processes within the body. Although the prospect of a speedy metabolism may sound like a good thing to those of us who are trying to lose weight, this condition can actually wreak havoc and seriously impair health.
Whereas hypothyroidism sometimes goes undetected, especially in people with mild symptoms, hyperthyroidism is often harder to miss. That is, it is often easier to notice the change in health and behavior that accompanies the onset of hyperthyroidism. However, many patients with this disorder still have to undergo several rounds of tests and other diagnostic processes before the true source of the problem is pinpointed.
Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- anxiousness and nervousness
- panic attacks
- rapid mood swings and irritability
- hard-to-control perspiration and body odor
- hair brittleness and breakage
- weak and jittery muscles, limbs, and extremities
- sleep difficulties and insomnia
- heart palpitations
- frequent bowel movements
- sudden weight loss with no change in appetite or eating patterns
- light, infrequent menstrual periods
- bulging eyes
- a frequent feeling of being out of breath
- constant feelings of being too hot, regardless of the weather
The good news is that hyperthyroidism can often be corrected with a simple course of medication. Soon after a prescription drug regimen is started, many, if not all, of the symptoms of the disorder will begin to subside.
If you suspect that you might be at risk for hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, please speak with your doctor. And don’t forget to check back each week for more of the thyroid health news you need!
Note: The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for professional care. This site should not be used in place of professional medical advice. The author is not a physician. For medical emergencies, call 911!
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