We all know that, as we age, our metabolisms naturally slow down a bit. When you were younger, you may have heard older adults talking saying things like “It will catch up to you” and “It’s all downhill from here”. While all of this is true you may find that you are accepting a serious health problem as a natural part of aging. This article provides general information about how to identify a thyroid problem.
Some of the symptoms of a thyroid problem could include gaining or losing weight unexpectedly, sensitivity to heat or cold, anxiety and the inability to sleep, or lethargy, depression, and feeling exhausted all the time. If you are wondering why so many of these symptoms seem to oppose one another, it is because they do. This incomplete list shows examples of what happens when your thyroid gland is not functioning properly. That includes symptoms of an overactive thyroid, as well an underactive one.
Your thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly and located in the front of your neck. This little organ does a whole lot of work for you. By producing thyroid hormones T3 and T4, it governs your body’s metabolism, controlling how efficiently you process fuel. If your thyroid is not producing enough of these hormones, you may be diagnosed with hypothyroidism. If it is producing too many, you may have hyperthyroidism.
If left untreated, either condition can lead to major health problems and other adverse health events. Let’s talk about some of the symptoms that you may have attributed to normal life, stress, and/or aging.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism
If you have been feeling especially sluggish, it could be due to a sluggish thyroid gland. Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism include, but are not limited to:
- Dry skin and hair, brittle nails
- Unexplained weight gain
- Extreme cold sensitivity
- Heavy and/or irregular menstrual periods, with or without intense cramping
- Feeling exhausted and/or weak and listless
- Decreased appetite
- Feeling fuzzy-headed and/or having problems with memory
It is important to note that many of these symptoms could be due to poor sleep schedule, lack of exercise, and/or a vitamin-deficient diet. If you are experiencing multiple symptoms, – especially if you live a healthy and active lifestyle – you should schedule a consultation with an endocrinologist or thyroid specialist. Hypothyroidism can be a roadblock for weight loss, but that is not all. It can have a serious impact on your health.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism
Now that we have covered what it is like to have an underactive thyroid gland, let’s talk about what happens when you have an overactive thyroid. Unsurprisingly, the symptoms are usually opposite to those of hypothyroidism. Those symptoms of hyperthyroidism include, but are not limited to:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Rapid and/or irregular heart rate (tachycardia)
- Anxiety, irritability, nervousness
- Sweating and tremors
- Extreme sensitivity to heat
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased appetite
- Frequent, loose bowel movements
- Goiter (enlarged thyroid, looks like a swelling or lump on the throat)
Hyperthyroidism can lead to exhaustion from lack of quality sleep, serious heart problems, and even vision problems. If you suffer from any or all of these symptoms, talk to a thyroid specialist as soon as possible. Like hypothyroidism, untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to other serious health problems.
Treatment for hypothyroidism is non-invasive and simple. Your doctor will prescribe you hormone replacement therapy, meaning you will take replacement thyroid hormones in pill form regularly. Some instances of hypothyroidism are temporary, requiring medication only for a short period, while others are permanent, and require treatment for the rest of your life.
Treatment for hyperthyroidism generally requires a surgical procedure. Your surgeon will remove part or all of your thyroid gland to cease its hormone production. If the entire gland must be removed, you will need to take thyroid medication for hypothyroidism.
If you have questions or concerns about thyroid problems, contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you to see a thyroid surgeon.