The thyroid gland, located near your Adam's apple and shaped somewhat like a butterfly, is responsible for regulating your metabolism, your heartbeat and many other important bodily functions.
When something is wrong with your thyroid gland you might experience a wide variety of symptoms. Millions of people have hypothyroidism, which means that the gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone (TH). The opposite problem, hyperthyroidism or producing too much TH is less common but also problematic. Thyroid problems often go undiagnosed, largely because many of the symptoms of thyroid disorder can be mistaken for symptoms of other problems. Here are five signs that there might be something wrong with your thyroid gland.
Feeling tired even when you sleep well could be a signal of a lot of different medical conditions, hypothyroidism being just one of them. It can be difficult to diagnose what is causing chronic fatigue, but a check of your thyroid function by a doctor might reveal an underactive thyroid gland as at least part of the problem.
Anxiousness and Nerves
If you're feeling nervous, anxious or just unable to relax and be calm, you could have an overactive thyroid. Too much TH production can signal your system to be always on alert and make it hard for you to relax, even if you have no particular reason to be anxious or worried.
Women are more susceptible to thyroid problems than men because of the connection between TH and women's hormones. A major symptom of thyroid problems in women is a change to the menstrual cycle. Hyperthyroidism actually slows down your periods, making them shorter or further apart, while hypothyroidism increases menstrual flow and may make periods come closer together.
Unexplained Aches and Pains
Minor pain, sensitivity or twinges with no apparent cause could be due to hypothyroidism. When your thyroid isn't producing enough TH, it can affect the nerves that control pain signals. Thyroid-related aches and pains are most often felt in the arms, fingers, legs or toes.
Feeling Too Hot or Too Cold
If you are frequently uncomfortable with a standard room temperature, or if you often switch between a feeling of being too hot or too cold, your thyroid could be to blame. Thyroid hormone affects your metabolism, which in turn can leave you with less energy cells and less warmth, or too much energy and a feeling of being overheated.
The entire list of symptoms of thyroid disorder is long, and it includes weight changes, depressed mood, hair loss, trouble concentrating, high cholesterol levels, difficulty getting pregnant, high blood pressure and more. Because the thyroid gland is so important to the whole body, doctors often include thyroid tests as a part of routine blood testing.
Diagnosis is often difficult for doctors because of the wide range of symptoms, and sometimes multiple tests are needed to rule out other medical conditions that could be causing symptoms.
When hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism is diagnosed, treatment usually involves oral medications. These are synthetic thyroid hormones in the case of hypothyroidism, and medication that will decrease thyroid hormone production in the case of hyperthyroidism. Surgery is rarely required, but may be recommended in the case of a large goiter - an overactive nodule in the thyroid gland. Thyroid disorders are usually not life threatening, but they can affect the quality of life tremendously due the wide variety of symptoms that affect sleep, concentration, mood, temperature and general physical comfort. Remember that thyroid disease is more common in women and people over the age of 35, but anyone can have thyroid disease, including children.
Ask your doctor about thyroid disorder to be sure you are being tested regularly, especially if you have symptoms. It might also help to supplement your diet with thyroid complexes like ThyroMate.