The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, is the master gland of metabolism. When your thyroid doesn’t function, it can affect every aspect of your health, and in particular, weight, depression and energy levels. Undiagnosed thyroid problems can dramatically increase your risk of obesity, heart disease, depression, anxiety, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, infertility and a host of other symptoms and health problems.
It’s estimated that as many as 59 million Americans have a thyroid problem, but the majority don’t know it yet. So, the importance of recognizing the signs and symptoms, and getting a proper diagnosis and treatment, is clear.
You don’t need to have all of these symptoms in order to have a thyroid problem, but here are the 12 most common signs of hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is a leading cause of difficulty in achieving and maintaining pregnancy. Low thyroid function has a negative impact on reproductive health and is more common than most women realize.
In the ever changing medical system, new information on thyroid testing has narrowed the ranges in which thyroid function impacts a woman’s ability to achieve pregnancy. For women struggling to get pregnant, questioning thyroid health and getting proper testing is a first critical step to a successful outcome.
2. Unexplained Weight Gain
One of the earliest warning signs of an underactive thyroid gland is unexplained weight gain caused by low levels of T3 and T4 hormones that slow down the body’s metabolism. People who suffer from hypothyroidism not only face an increase in body weight, they also have trouble managing it, even after following a rigorous diet and exercise regime.
3. Feeling Tired
Feeling tired and having no energy are issues associated with lots of conditions, but they’re strongly linked with hypothyroidism. If you’re still tired in the morning or all day after a full night’s sleep, that’s one of the signs of hypothyroidism. Too little thyroid hormone coursing through your bloodstream and cells means your muscles aren’t getting that get-going signal.
4. Bags Around and Under the Eyes
This fluid accumulation is a sign of delayed protein metabolism. A healthy thyroid breaks down protein adequately and prevents it from backing up into the lymph system. Fluid bags under the eyes also indicate adrenal gland insufficiency, specifically related to decreased progesterone levels.
As the eyes are further away from the thyroid (neck) than the jowls and “double chin”, bags around the eyes would signal a more severe and chronic thyroid dysfunction than jowls.
Hypothyroidism causes the brain to slow down. This can make it difficult to focus, which could lead to clinical depression. It’s underestimated how much hypothyroidism can cause depression. When mood is compromised, people may also say they feel weak and stiff.
6. High Cholesterol
Low levels of thyroid hormones and high levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which the body produces to stimulate the thyroid gland to secrete more thyroid hormone, can lead to high cholesterol.
Two studies published in 2012 in the journal Clinical Thyroidology found that higher TSH levels were associated with higher cholesterol levels. Minor hypothyroidism, however, usually doesn’t affect cholesterol, says Sanjay Dixit, MD, an endocrinologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
7. Dry, Thinning Hair and Brittle Fingernails
It’s not unusual for hypothyroidism to decrease oil production in the skin to the extent that hair loss occurs and fingernails become brittle, breaking easily. People with dysfunctional thyroids may find that they suddenly have dramatically thinning hair or even bald spots.
8. Pale Complexion or Overly Tan, Even in Winter
The thyroid determines metabolism and works closely with the heart to regulate body temperature and blood flow. That includes bringing heat to the surface of the skin, which will lend a slight red or golden/yellow/tan complexion.
An underactive thyroid will not perform this function well leaving a pale, almost pasty complexion. This is one distinction between a pale complexion and a pale/pasty complexion. A pale complexion can (sometimes) still look healthy.
Sometimes a person can suffer from hypothyroidism but have very tan skin, even in the winter. This occurs commonly in females and is related to estrogen dominance occurring from impaired liver function.
9. Puffiness in the Face
A bloated-looking face with swollen, puffy eyelids and especially a thickening of the neck is a symptom of advanced hypothyroidism. You can do a thyroid neck check on yourself using the instructions provided by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.
Low levels of thyroid hormones weaken the contractions of the digestive tract, causing stools to move slowly and result in constipation.
11. Hoarse Voice
Because the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland is so close to the larynx, it can have an effect on the sound of your voice if it becomes inflamed.
12. Menstrual Irregularities
Hypothyroidism can trigger hormonal imbalances that could make your menstrual cycle irregular.
Note: Many of the hypothyroidism symptoms may resemble the normal aging process. For example, the elderly may often complain of being tired, feeling cold, having dry skin, and constipation. It is important to look for a change from previous state of health and keep the possibility of hypothyroidism in mind.