Thyroid changes can cause various symptoms. If these symptoms are not addressed and monitored, they can worsen and lead to serious problems. When thyroid function is compromised, this gland can become overactive (which is referred to hyperthyroidism), or under-active (which is known as hypothyroidism).
Hyperthyroidism is associated with symptoms like agitation, nervousness, difficulty concentrating and weight lost, while hypothyroidism causes symptoms like fatigue, memory loss, easy weight gain, cold and dry skin, irregular periods and hair loss. Learn more about the symptoms specific to hypothyroidism .
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor promptly so that blood tests or and ultrasound can be ordered. Blood tests can measure thyroid hormone levels circulating in the body, while an ultrasound can determine whether there are any nodules on the thyroid.
There are some general symptoms that you should monitor for, as they could indicate changes to your thyroid. These symptoms include:
1. Weight gain or loss
Weight gain for no apparent reason, especially if there have been no changes to diet or activity level, is concerning and can be caused by hypothyroidism. This condition is characterized by a slowing down of the thyroid, which leads to decreased metabolism rates in the body.
On the other hand, when there is weight loss for no apparent reason, this could be a sign of hyperthyroidism and increased metabolism rates in the body. Graves disease is a type of hyperthyroidism that often present with weight loss.
2. Difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness
Feeling like your head is constantly in the clouds or having difficulty concentrating or remembering specific things can all be signs of thyroid issues. Lack of concentration is more associated with hyperthyroidism, while forgetfulness is more related with hypothyroidism,
3. Hair loss and dry skin
Hair loss is normal during periods of great stress and during the seasons of fall and spring. However, if you notice significantly increased hair loss, or if hair loss persists after these seasons, it may be a sign of thyroid malfunctioning.
In addition, dry or itchy skin may also be a sign of a thyroid problem, particularly if you are not currently experiencing cold and dry weather.
4. Mood changes
A high or low level of thyroid hormones can cause changes to mood. Hyperthyroidism often makes you feel irritable, anxious or agitates, while hypothyroidism will make you feel constantly sad or depressed. This is due to changes of serotonin levels in the brain.
Changes to thyroid functioning can lead to difficulty with digestion and constipation that is unaffected by diet changes or exercising.
6. Sleepiness, fatigue and muscular pain
Sleepiness, fatigue and increased sleep at night can all be signs of hypothyroidism, which slows down bodily functions and triggers constant fatigue. In addition, muscular pain or tingling with no apparent reasons can also be a sign of low thyroid function. Low amounts of thyroid hormone can lead to damage of the nerves that send signals to the brain and the rest of the body, leading to tingling and a sensation of pins and needles throughout the body
7. Sore throat and neck
The thyroid gland is located in the neck, therefore if you notice pain, discomfort or a lump in the neck area, it may be a sign of a thyroid change, which can interfere with good functions.
As soon as you notice and changes to your thyroid, you should see your doctor for assessment and testing.
8. Palpitations and high blood pressure
Palpitations that make you feeling pulsing in your neck or wrists may be a sign that your thyroid is not functioning as it should. High blood pressure may be another symptom, especially if it does not improve with diet and exercise. Hypothyroidism is also associated with increased levels of cholesterol.
To assess your thyroid function, the doctor may order blood work to check your thyroid hormone levels. Tests he or she may order include a T3, T4, TSH, and antibody levels (like anti-thyroglobulin and antiperoxidase). In addition, the doctor may also order imaging exams, like an ultrasound or CT scan of your thyroid. If changes are noted to the thyroid, the doctor may additionally opt to order a biopsy.
Read more about the TSH blood test and what the results mean.
Treatment of thyroid changes
Treatment for thyroid changes should be monitored by a doctor or endocrinologist. The treatment plan will vary depending on the changes that were noted, the presenting symptoms and the test results. The doctor may prescribe medication to regulate thyroid function.
In some cases, surgical removal of the thyroid is necessary. When the thyroid gland is removed, the patient will need to complete lifelong thyroid hormone replacement therapy.