Since Thyroid Disease Awareness Month is set for January 2023, this would be an appropriate time to take a few moments to have your thyroid checked, and to have any senior loved ones with you checked also.
There are two different diseases that can affect the thyroid gland, and they often have opposite effects. Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland is not active enough, and is not carrying out its normal function.
Normally, the thyroid gland secretes hormones that manage the body’s metabolism, and an underactive thyroid will issue fewer hormones than it should. The opposite condition, hyperthyroidism, is when too many hormones are secreted and metabolism is over-managed. In this article, we’ll identify some warning signs of thyroid disease, so you’ll know if you should see your doctor to check it.
Changes in weight
Thyroid disease can often cause changes in your weight, and depending on which type of thyroid disease you have, the change may be an increase or decrease. With hypothyroidism, you might gain weight for no apparent reason, or you may have great difficulty trying to lose weight, even if you eat less and do much more exercise. When you have hyperthyroidism, it could be that you lose weight even though you’re taking in an appropriate amount of calories.
Both types of thyroid disease can cause your body to become much more sensitive to changes in temperature, and you will generally be aware of all these changes. When you have hypothyroidism, you might feel colder than you should for conditions in the environment. When you have hyperthyroidism, it could cause you to feel unusually warm and sweaty, even if the temperature around you is relatively normal.
Sleeping and fatigue
It’s very common that a person would experience fatigue or some kind of sleep issues when they have a thyroid disease. Fatigue will generally get worse if you don’t get a good night’s rest, and if it becomes bad enough, it can have an impact on your waking hours and your normal daily activities. When you have hypothyroidism, you might wake up feeling exhausted, even if you get a full eight hours of sleep. You might be prone to taking long naps during the daytime, or you might have very long sleep sessions on those days when you’re not working.
With hyperthyroidism, you may find it difficult to fall asleep at all, or you might wake up several times in the middle of the night. Sometimes you’ll notice that your heart is racing even though your body is at rest, or you might feel unduly anxious at bedtime. It’s also possible for thyroid disease to have an impact on your mental state. It’s very common to experience anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders when the thyroid is not behaving normally. Hypothyroidism may cause depression that will not react to antidepressants. At the same time, with hyperthyroidism, it’s possible that you might have panic disorder, intense anxiety, or possibly even full-blown panic attacks.
Changes to the neck or throat
Some of the most obvious symptoms of thyroid disease are changes that you might see in the neck or throat. You may see nodules or an enlargement of the thyroid at the base of the neck, and this could indicate an autoimmune thyroid disease, or possibly even thyroid cancer. Things to look for are a swelling of the neck or a visibly enlarged neck.
You might also experience jaw and ear pain, eating or swallowing difficulty, a raspy voice, or persistent tenderness in the neck. When you do spot a swollen neck, it could also be an indicator of neurological disease, some kind of infection, or thyroid cancer. If you notice any kind of swelling in your neck or throat, you should consult with your doctor as soon as possible to have it checked out.
Skin and hair
Thyroid conditions will also affect the level of hormones in your body and sometimes cause an imbalance. When your hormones get out of balance, it’s possible for you to undergo noticeable changes in your skin, hair, and nails. With hypothyroidism, your hair could become dry and brittle, breaking easily. You may also experience a loss of hair, particularly in the area around the eyebrows.
Another potential symptom could be that your skin becomes scaly, dry, or thicker than usual, especially in the area around the elbows, knees, and heels. Your fingernails and toenails may also become dull, brittle, or thin. When you have hyperthyroidism, it’s very possible that you will experience either thinning hair or severe hair loss. You might also have unexplained skin rashes or increased sensitivity on your skin.
Changes to bowel habits
Thyroid disease can also have a major impact on your digestive system and on your bowel movements. With hypothyroidism, it’s possible for you to have persistent constipation or bouts with constipation that tend to be fairly severe. It may not even respond to treatment recommended by your doctor. When you have hyperthyroidism, it’s possible for you to develop diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, or generally loose stools.