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We all know that person who is always energetic. Meanwhile, you feel drained even when you’ve done nothing strenuous. But, before you become envious of your friend or get depressed over always being tired, consider the possibility that you or your friend both might have a thyroid disorder. Lethargy, unexplained weight gain, and even feelings of anxiety can be signs there’s a problem with your thyroid.
Understanding the Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of your neck. It produces the thyroid hormone (TH), which is crucial in regulating the body’s heartbeat, metabolism, and temperature. However, a thyroid disease will mess up hormone production and result in either too high or too low hormone levels.
Experts are not entirely sure what causes problems in the thyroid gland. However, there are proven triggers, like genetics, autoimmune disease, stress, pregnancy, poor nutrition, or toxins. And since it affects numerous body functions, diagnosing a thyroid disorder can be challenging.
Weird Signs of Thyroid Disease
Hypothyroidism is the condition when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormone while hyperthyroidism is where excessive levels of TH are produced. Graves disease, Hashimoto’s disease, goiter, and thyroid nodules are also disorders linked to the thyroid.
These diseases often will manifest in the following symptoms:
- Changes in menstrual period: There’s a close link between thyroid problems and irregular menstrual cycles. Low thyroid hormones can cause longer menstrual periods or periods that occur close together, heavy flow, and more incidences of cramps. Meanwhile, hyperthyroidism causes shorter periods with a very light flow. Periods might also happen further apart.
Thyroid problems can also cause mastalgia or breast tenderness. But since tender or sore breasts is a common occurrence during menstruation, menopause, and pregnancy, people don’t often associate it with a thyroid disorder.
- Dry skin and brittle nails: Hypothyroidism can cause itchy, dry, and flaky skin. Low hormone production can result in a change in the skin’s texture and appearance. Hypothyroidism can also lead to nails developing ridges and becoming brittle.
- Fluctuations in heart rate: The hormones produced by the thyroid can also affect how fast our hearts beat. People with hypothyroidism might experience a slower heart rate while those with hyperthyroidism will feel rapid heartbeats. Thyroid disease also causes heart palpitations and increased blood pressure levels.
- Hair loss: This is another common sign of hormonal imbalance. A thyroid disorder can cause hair to fall out or to become dry and brittle. A thyroid problem can also affect hair all over the body, like the eyebrows. It’s undoubtedly distressing, but the good news is, hair will grow back once the problem is treated.
- Hot flashes or sensitivity to cold: Thyroid problems can also mess up the body’s ability to regulate temperature. Hypothyroidism causes people to become more sensitive to cold while hyperthyroidism can cause excessive sweating and hot flashes.
If your thyroid is underactive, less energy is burned by cells, which equates to less body heat. But an overactive thyroid causes energy-producing cells to work harder and faster. This is the reason why people with hyperthyroidism sweat profusely or feel too warm.
- Inability to focus/forgetfulness: Your cognitive skills also become affected by a thyroid disorder. High levels of thyroid hormone can make it difficult to concentrate or focus while very low TH levels can cause forgetfulness. In short, if your brain feels fuzzy, it might be telling you there’s a problem with your thyroid.
- Mood swings/changes in energy levels: Your energy level and mood will also be affected if you have a thyroid problem. Hypothyroidism can cause people to feel tired, lethargic, or depressed while hyperthyroidism can result in anxiety, insomnia, irritability, and restlessness.
Some doctors even consider fatigue as the number one symptom of an underactive thyroid, particularly if you still feel tired despite getting more than eight hours of sleep. Too little TH production can also impact serotonin levels, which might lead to low moods.
- Pain in extremities: A strange tingling, numbness or pain in the hands, arms, legs, or feet can be a sign of hypothyroidism. Low hormone production can damage the nerves that send signals from the brain to various extremities.
- Swollen neck: If your neck becomes swollen, it could be a sign that you have a thyroid problem. Goiters are known to occur because of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer can also cause swelling. Of course, there might be other reasons, so make sure you consult your doctor.
- Unexplained weight gain or loss: This is another very common symptom of a thyroid problem. When the body produces very low levels of thyroid hormones, it results in weight gain. Conversely, higher levels of hormones will lead to unexplained weight loss.
- Unpredictable bowel movements: One of the top symptoms of hypothyroidism is constipation, as an imbalance in hormone production also causes the digestive system to slow down. Conversely, hyperthyroidism can result in more frequent bowel movements.
Conventional Treatments for Thyroid Disorders
See your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms and believe that they’re caused by your thyroid. Your physician will conduct a physical exam and order several tests to determine if you do have a thyroid disease.
There are several treatments available for hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism can be treated via anti-thyroid medication, radioactive iodine treatment, or surgery. Your doctor might require you to take anti-thyroid pills for about a year, and symptoms are expected to disappear in six to eight weeks.
Radioactive treatment is the next step if hyperthyroidism can’t be managed by medication. The patient will be asked to take a pill or swallow liquid with radioactive iodide. The iodide will limit or stop the thyroid gland’s ability to produce hormones.
Meanwhile, surgery is the last resort and reserved for specific cases.
Unfortunately, for those with hypothyroidism, no surgical procedure or medicine can boost production of the thyroid hormone once it slows down. The patient will instead be prescribed a synthetic form of the hormone that has to be taken regularly.
Most thyroid disorders are not life-threatening and are manageable with the right medical treatment. However, coming up with the proper diagnosis and medication would require several visits to the doctor.
Natural and Holistic Thyroid Treatment Resources
Note: Whether you decide to go the conventional, natural, or combination route, it is critical that your thyroid condition is properly diagnosed, so you’re fully aware of the best way to treat your condition.
If you want to learn more about natural and holistic thyroid treatment options, check out the following websites below. They contain a wealth of information on nearly everything about thyroid disease!