It’s a relatively small part of your body, but it can cause big problems if it’s out of whack. Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is located on the front of your neck, and when it’s functioning properly, you can’t actually feel it.
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The American Thyroid Association notes that an estimated 12-percent of the U.S. population will have a thyroid condition during their lifetime, and up to 60-percent of those people won’t be aware their thyroid isn’t functioning properly. Since January is Thyroid Awareness Month, let’s take a look at seven signs your thyroid may be experiencing difficulties…
1. Feeling Tired All the Time
Have you lost your get-up-and-go, and you haven’t been making any big changes to your lifestyle or diet? Your thyroid gland may be to blame, according to Health.com. It says exhaustion is “strongly linked” to hypothyroidism, when your thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones.
Telltale signs include being tired when you wake up from a full night’s sleep, it adds. “Too little thyroid hormone coursing through your bloodstream and cells means your muscles aren’t getting that get-going signal,” explains the source.
2. Mood Changes
The Mayo Clinic explains that thyroid issues can impact your mood for the worse – namely, you can experience anxiety and depression. Mood changes can occur whether your thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive, it adds.
For example, hyperthyroidism is connected to “unusual nervousness,” restlessness, and irritability, while an underachieving thyroid can usually lead to depression, explains the source.
3. Unexplained Weight Gain/Loss
If you haven’t changed your diet or exercise habits but notice your weight seems to be dipping or rising unexpectedly, it could be your thyroid (or a number of other potentially serious health issues that you should consult a doctor about).
WebMD says an “unexplained change in weight is one of the most common signs of a thyroid disorder,” adding that a gain in weight is usually a result of low thyroid production, while overproduction can actually shed pounds. Hypothyroidism is “far more common,” it adds.
4. Hair Loss
The British Thyroid Association says that “prolonged” bouts of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism can indeed cause some hair loss. So if you notice your hair is thinning a bit, it could be genetics, stress – or your endocrine system (which includes your thyroid).
If you’re losing hair from a thyroid problem, it will involve loss from the entire scalp rather than particular areas, explains the source – “The hair appears uniformly sparse.” However, the good news is that if your thyroid issue is properly addressed, you’ll probably get back at least some (if not all) of your lovely locks.
5. Lowered Heat/Cold Tolerance
If you find yourself removing outer layers of clothing in a room where everyone else seems comfortable, then you might be experiencing heat intolerance due to a thyroid issue. TheInvisibleHypothyroidism.com explains this can be particularly troubling during the summer months.
The source explains that if you’re already being medicated for a thyroid issue, it can lead to hyperthyroidism that’s linked to “feeling hot, flushed and anxious.” It adds that people with autoimmune hypothyroidism (such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) can have fluctuating symptoms of heightened heat or cold sensitivity. It will take proper medical tests to pinpoint and correct these problems of your thyroid, which is “basically your body’s thermostat,” it adds.
WebMD says having dry eyes can be the first sign of thyroid problems in some cases. Eye trouble from thyroid dysfunction is commonly linked with Graves’ disease, which is a form of hyperthyroidism, notes the source. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can sometimes be the culprit too, it adds.
Other sources note hypothyroidism can lead to dry skin and dry scalp (along with the hair loss), as well as vaginal dryness (which can also be associated with menopause).
As we mentioned earlier, you normally can’t see or feel your thyroid gland – that is, unless there’s an issue. The Mayo Clinic notes a goiter is the enlargement of your thyroid, though in many cases there’s no pain – although it can cause a cough and interfere with breathing and swallowing.
Goiters are associated with a lack of iodine in your diet, it says, which is a common additive to table salt. Aside from lack of iodine, other reasons your thyroid is enlarged include Graves’ Disease, Hashimoto’s Disease (thyroiditis), thyroid nodules, or pregnancy, adds the source.