The thyroid gland secretes hormones that govern several vital bodily functions, including growth and metabolic activity. When the thyroid malfunctions and produces either excess or deficient amounts of hormones, numerous symptoms of ill-health manifest over time. A thyroid problem may relate to hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid gland, or hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid gland.
People with a family history of thyroid or other gland-related medical conditions are at higher risk of developing thyroid problems. Genetics may increase susceptibility to thyroid problems, but this doesn’t mean that a genetically predisposed person will develop thyroid conditions; they simply have an increased risk compared to those who do not have those genetic variations related to thyroid. Nonetheless, it is good to know that there is a link between genetics and thyroid disease, and those with a family member who has thyroid issues should be aware of this connection.
Hair Loss and Skin Problems
When an individual develops a thyroid problem, visible changes in hair and skin quality are likely to occur. Hair tends to thin and this loss may affect the hair all over the body, such as the armpits and eyebrows, as well as the head. Skin tends to get either uncharacteristically dry and patchy or more oily and acne-prone. Few people experience no skin-related symptoms.
Change in Body Weight
A sudden change in weight is one of the most typical signs of issues with the thyroid. If an individual begins gaining weight rapidly without any change in calorie intake, lifestyle, or stress levels, he or she may have hypothyroidism. On the other hand, rapid weight loss with no change in quality or quantity of food consumption is often indicative of hyperthyroidism.
Unpredictable Bowel Function
Most people with thyroid issues report unpredictable and unusual bowel function, which makes sense since the thyroid is responsible for regulating metabolism. Those with low thyroid production will develop a slower metabolism and a lazy gut, and they may often feel constipated. High thyroid hormone production causes high metabolism and can result in diarrhea or frequent urges to pass bowel movements.
Swelling of the Neck
Often, swelling in the neck is the most easily perceptible sign of thyroid problems. This swelling occurs due to goiters — inflammation of the thyroid gland. Goiters can develop in people with both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, though there are other causes of swelling in the neck, as well, and inflammation in this area should prompt medical care.
Some women with thyroid problems report changes in their menstrual patterns. Hypothyroidism is associated with increased blood flow and longer cycles, while hyperthyroidism is linked to reduced blood flow and irregular, shorter cycles. A lot of women, though, do not see a significant alteration in menstrual patterns, and many conditions can cause these menstrual changes, so women should not attempt to self-diagnose based on these symptoms alone.
Depression or Anxiety
Mood disturbances and mental health issues are common in those suffering from thyroid dysfunction. Hypothyroidism can influence serotonin and other neurotransmitter levels in the brain, leading to lethargy and depression. Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, makes the body work overtime, leaving affected individuals prone to anxiety, restlessness, and excess energy.
Loss of Libido
Thyroid issues can decrease sex drive. With changes in metabolism and other bodily functions, the function of the reproductive organs and adrenal glands may become impaired. This can cause an individual to lose interest in sexual activity. Once treatment begins, people with thyroid conditions often find their sex drive returns.
Change in Sleep Patterns
Many people with thyroid problems also experience altered sleep patterns. Hypothyroidism can cause fatigue in spite of adequate sleep, while hyperthyroidism often leaves people feeling alert and sleepless at bedtime. Both extremes negatively impact regular functioning and productivity.
Muscle and Joint Pain
In a lot of cases of thyroid malfunction, muscle and joint health are also affected. People may develop frequent aches and pains, muscle weakness that has no obvious explanation, and carpal tunnel syndrome, which develops more frequently compared to those without thyroid conditions. Muscle or joint pain that does not go away in a reasonable amount of time or with treatment should be inspected by a physician.