Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, is a condition whereby Your thyroid is arguably the most important gland in your body, so it’s important to spot possible signs that could mean it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do. Here’s what to look for, consult your doctor if you have more than one symptom.
1. Feeling Extremely Tired
Being tired after waking up from a full night’s sleep is one possible sign that your thyroid isn’t functioning at its best.
Under ideal circumstances, getting enough sleep should lead to you waking up feeling refreshed and ready to go for the day. Perhaps you’ve gotten so used to feeling this way that you don’t recognize it as a problem, and take it for granted that it’s just a part of life.
Knowing the signs of hypothyroidism, including what is and isn’t a symptom, is important so you don’t go a long time without detecting it, or have a false positive and seek treatment unnecessarily.
Tired for No Reason
Feeling tired after physically exerting yourself from an activity is one thing, but when you feel run down and fatigued as your default setting, it’s a sign that something isn’t right. If you’ve taken steps to boost your energy levels, like eating fresh fruits and vegetables, getting enough water, and getting restful sleep, it may be your thyroid that is causing the low energy levels.
2. Feeling Depressed
If you’ve been feeling down, having depressed thoughts, and otherwise withdrawing from activities and social situations you used to look forward to, you may have an underactive thyroid.
Hormone-induced depression, the kind associated with an underactive thyroid, occurs when you’re not getting the right blend of hormones, affecting your mental state over time if not treated properly.
The Mayo Clinic reminds us that feeling depressed alone is not enough to properly identify an underactive thyroid. You’ll want to look at the other symptoms listed here and see if you are experiencing more than one.
Common Feelings Associated with Depression
It can sometimes be hard differentiating between depression and just feeling sad or negative. One clear sign of depression is that you don’t find enjoyment in things you used to enjoy. Regardless of if it’s your thyroid or not, you’ll want to talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing consistent and constant thoughts that bring you down.
3. General Weakness
We’ve already seen that a state of extreme tiredness could be a thyroid problem, and if that’s paired with muscle weakness it’s even more likely that it’s your thyroid.
Often when you feel tired and fatigued, it’s easy to lump feeling weak together with those symptoms. But you’ll want to make sure that aside from having low energy levels, your muscles feel like they’re straining to contract and stay contracted.
Remember, you only need to show one of these signs to suspect hypothyroidism, so the more you have the more important it is to take steps to treat it.
Specifically Your Muscles
When checking for weakness, it’s your muscles that you’ll want to judge to see if they feel strong and able to get you through the day, or if they’re unable to muster the energy to propel you through what needs to get done.
4. Skin and Nail Dryness
Dry skin and nails are one possible signal that you’re suffering from hypothyroidism. One of the most common signs of hypothyroidism is dry skin, according to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada.
It’s most common to experience this dryness during the winter months when the air is dry and the winds are cold and consistent. Your thyroid fluctuates with the seasons, and you may only experience this symptom in a particular season.
Look for dry, brittle nails and itchy, dry skin as the two biggest signs. You may also experience a dry and itchy scalp. Eczema can also be a sign, and you may even notice that your skin has changed color.
When Moisturizers Aren’t Working
It’s when you’ve applied skin moisturizers and lotions and you’re still experiencing dryness that’s the sign it could be a thyroid problem. Dry skin alone is not necessarily a sign, it’s when it’s excessive to the point of not responding to treatment.
5. Mental Fog
Do you find yourself suffering from a mental haze during the day, even when you’re eating healthy food and getting enough water?
There is a strong link between your hormone levels and the proper functioning of your body’s organs, including your brain. Running a shortage on your thyroid hormone keeps your brain in a less than optimal mode, resulting in what is referred to as brain fog, or mental fog.
Each of us has experienced brain fog at one time or another, and often it will pass and we’ll get back to normal. It’s when you’re consistently experiencing it for long periods of time throughout the day that it could be a thyroid condition.
Other Possible Causes
Check to make sure that what you’re describing as brain fog is not due to other factors such as lack of sleep, hunger, overeating, allergies, dehydration, and other problems that can cause lapses in your ability to focus and stay clear headed.
If you’re eating a diet full of fiber-rich foods and exercising regularly, but still suffer from bouts of constipation, it may be that your thyroid isn’t keeping up the proper pace of hormone production.
It isn’t just constipation, but other bowel-related problems could have their source in an under-producing thyroid.
When you have constipation coupled with at least one other symptom listed here, there is more and more likelihood that your thyroid is involved in some way.
There are many contributing factors when it comes to constipation, and it’s important to make sure there isn’t another reason for your constipation other than your thyroid. Getting your recommended fiber from whole foods and staying hydrated are two of the best ways to insure regularity.
7. Muscle Cramps
If you experience regular cramping of your muscles, it could be your thyroid that’s causing the trouble.
Muscle cramps can occur for any number of reasons, including not getting enough potassium or calcium, overexerting the muscles through physical activity, not properly stretching before and after a workout, or because they were put in an awkward position.
It’s when the cramping gets to be frequent that you’ll want to associate it with a possible thyroid problem.
Chronic is Key
An occasional muscle cramp may not be a sign of hyperthyroidism, it could be a shortage of key minerals like potassium and magnesium, or not getting enough water through the day. But if you feel that you’re eating a balanced diet and drinking enough water and still get regular muscle cramps it could be your thyroid and is worth having it checked out.
8. Intolerance to Cold
Finding the cold unbearable is something many of us can relate to, but if the bitter cold feeling really cuts to your bones you may have a thyroid issue.
Here’s where it’s important to differentiate between not liking the cold, and being intolerant to it. Most of us can put on a coat, hat, and gloves and take on the cold head-on.
It’s when you’re showing an aversion to going outside, even when properly bundled up that might mean you should have your thyroid checked.
Living in Warmer Climates
If you live in a part of the world that doesn’t experience cold temperatures during the winter months, you might not be able to use this sign as you won’t have a lot of experience with it. However, if you moved to that warmer climate because you couldn’t stand another cold winter it could be your thyroid that made you move.
There are many causes of anxiety, and your thyroid could be adding to the likelihood of experiencing anxiety and panic attacks.
It’s amazing to think that even your moods hinge upon your hormone levels, and while they certainly aren’t the only thing that affects how you’re feeling, they lay the foundation for feeling anxious and nervous, or feeling calm and relaxed.
Treating the cause of your anxiety is key, and if it’s a thyroid problem you can take steps to get it back to full production and potentially reduce the number of anxiety attacks you experience.
The Thyroid Link to Anxiety
The proper release of hormones helps your body and brain function at their full potential. When your thyroid isn’t producing the right amount of hormones it sets the stage for feeling anxious and panicky.
10. Low Sex Drive
Have you noticed that your desire for sex has been waning compared to what it once was? Many factors contribute to a low sex drive, but your thyroid plays a big part in how often and how strong that desire is.
It can be refreshing to think that your low sex drive is not your fault, and that it is due to a sluggish thyroid. This is especially true if you’ve been blaming yourself and trying to determine the psychological reason behind it.
Low sex drive can be caused by everything from erectile dysfunction, to a lack of closeness with your partner, so it’s important not to immediately jump to your thyroid as the culprit.
Several Factors Influence Libido
Just because your libido isn’t what it used to be, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a thyroid problem, since there’s many things that could lead to it. But checking to see that your thyroid is firing on all cylinders is a good first step in identifying the problem.
11. Menstrual Fluctuations
Missing a period or having them less frequently, or having them more often and heavier could both be signs that your thyroid is not producing as much thyroid hormone as you need.
It is interesting to note that both the frequency and the strength of your menstruation can be affected by your thyroid, and the production of the thyroid hormone.
If you are using birth control you may be misinterpreting these symptoms as side effects of the drug, since it works on a hormonal level. This is why it’s doubly important to check with your doctor to determine the actual cause.
Is It My Thyroid?
You won’t know for sure if it’s your thyroid that is effecting your menstrual cycle until you get it checked by your doctor. The key is to look at the signs to see if you may be hypothyroid, and then get your status verified by a doctor to confirm and consult you about your treatment options.
12. Irregular Sleep Patterns
Your thyroid could be making you sleepy during the day when you’ve got things to do, and it could also be keeping you up at night. If you find yourself on the verge of falling asleep at inopportune times, it could be hypothyroidism. If you’re lying awake at night, it may be hyperthyroidism.
You may already be aware of the role melatonin, a hormone, plays in helping you fall asleep and stay asleep. Your thyroid hormone is also a factor, which is why you’ll want to analyze your sleep over a period of time to see if it is a symptom.
In Tune with Nature
When your body is getting all it needs in the form of hormones, vitamins, and minerals, it should be rather easy to get sleepy and fall asleep at night, and wake up in the morning and make it through the day with a good amount of energy. Getting your thyroid up to speed can help immensely with this.
13. Inexplicable Weight Gain
Gaining weight with no reasonable explanation could be a sign that your thyroid needs some assistance.
Weight can fluctuate greatly due to several different causes. If you’ve been known to gain weight while dieting, or gain weight with no change in your diet or exercise frequency, there could be a hormonal reason behind it, caused by your thyroid.
Hormones play a big part in maintaining a healthy weight, and if these levels are not balanced you may find it hard to lose weight, and hard to keep your weight at a steady level over time.
Keeping An Eye on Your Weight
You want to have a general idea of your weight without fixating on it. Knowing what you weigh from week to week is a good balance and can alert you to things like sudden weight gain. If you’re trying to lose weight it is also a good amount of time to check your progress without getting discouraged.
14. Hair Problems
An underactive thyroid can lead to several different forms of hair trouble, including thinning hair, hair loss, breakage, and dryness. If you’ve noticed any of these problems have been happening for awhile, or if they’ve come on suddenly, they could be caused by your thyroid, or they may be from something else.
All of these problems can be symptoms of other diseases or simply getting older, which is why a proper diagnosis will help you determine why it’s happening.
The thyroid plays a part in so many different areas of the body, that it can be a little daunting to go through all of the possible symptoms. But it’s essential to determining whether you should seek out treatment and finding what the real cause is behind the different problems.
Is It Genetic?
If you’re experiencing hair problems you may have written it off as a genetic condition. While hypothyroidism may be linked to genetics, it is also something that has a higher rate of successful treatment than hereditary baldness.