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Dr Maria Alejandra Pinero de Plaza, PhD*

People of all ages and genders can be affected by thyroid disorders. So, it is important for you to know more about your thyroid and discover if it has been troubling you.

Your thyroid controls how many calories you are burning and your aging symptoms, as well as how fast or slow organs like your brain, liver and heart are working1.

Almost everything that is happening right now within your body is affected by your thyroid. From digestion to mood, body temperature to energy, heart rate to bone density1.

Every cell of your body is regulated by your thyroid. This gland touches all aspects of your life, including your quality of sleep, mood and libido1,2.

Other problems connected to your thyroid may be stress, depression or anxiety3; as well as fertility issues, miscarriage, poor growth of the baby in the womb, premature labour and delivery. Thyroid health has been also associated with cholesterol problems and even Alzheimer’s disease. 1

Your thyroid

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that helps control many of your body’s functions by producing thyroid hormones.

When your thyroid is underactive (not producing many hormones) you can face problems such as hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is much more common than its opposite condition: hyperthyroidism. This refers to an overactive thyroid (producing many hormones) 1.

The influence of the thyroid gland over your health is so vast that many undiagnosed people are considered hypochondriac by their friends, family and even their doctors. This is because these people are complaining about many health issues.

If you are being troubled by an underactive or overactive thyroid gland, you may be experiencing some of the symptoms presented next. 

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is frequently misdiagnosed. It is important to know that you don’t necessarily have to present with all these symptoms. You may relate to only a few of them1,3:

Thyroid issues photo

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that helps control many of your body’s functions by producing thyroid hormones.

Frequently noticed

    • Sluggishness.
    • Weight gain.
    • Chronic constipation.
    • Depression and mood swings.
    • Brittle hair and nails.
    • Thick, dry, coarse skin.
    • Skin fissures, cracking heels, elbows and knee caps.
    • Brain fog.
    • Deepening, hoarse voice.
    • Slow, weak pulse.
    • Enlarged thyroid gland (in advanced cases).
    • Fatigue, exhaustion and low energy (even after 12 hours of sleep).
    • Feeling cold (especially hands and feet) even on warm days.
    • Fluid retention (swelling of face and feet).
    • Hair loss.
    • High cholesterol.
    • Indecisiveness.
    • Infertility.
    • Low basal temperature.
    • Lump in the throat (hard to swallow).
    • Menstrual cycle irregularities (prolonged and heavy).
    • Muscle weakness.
    • Numbness and tingling (especially in hands and face).
    • Pain and stiffness in muscles or joints.
    • Poor memory and concentration.
    • Shortness of breath on exertion.
    • Slow reflexes.


Less frequently noticed

    • Allergies.
    • Back pain.
    • Blood pressure problems.
    • Dry eyes and mouth.
    • Headaches and migraines.
    • Irritability.
    • Pale skin.
    • Palpitations.
    • Reduced libido.
    • Skin rashes.
    • Breast tenderness.
    • Irregular heartbeat.
    • Chest pain.
    • Digestive disturbances.
    • Dizziness.
    • Sore throat.
    • Stiff neck and shoulders.
    • Thinning eyebrows.
    • Visual disturbances.
Get your thyroid checked

The influence of the thyroid gland over your health is so vast that many undiagnosed people are considered hypochondriac by their friends, family and even their doctors. This is because these people are complaining about many health issues.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

Here are the symptoms for hyperthyroidism—an overactive thyroid gland1,3.

 Frequently noticed

    • Palpitations, fast pulse and irregular heartbeat.
    • Anxiety, nervousness and/or panic attacks.
    • Restlessness.
    • Irritability.
    • Menstrual cycle disturbances (intermittent and light).
    • Infertility.
    • Depression and mood swings.
    • Thin, moist skin.
    • Soft, thinning hair.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Muscle weakness.
    • Insomnia.
    • Enlarged thyroid gland (in advanced cases).
    • Trembling and twitches.
    • Heat intolerance.
    • Hot flushes and increased sweating.
    • The increased appetite (or loss of appetite).
    • Weight loss (especially if eating well).
    • Diarrhoea.
    • Eye complaints (especially gritty or bulging eyes).
    • Fatigue, exhaustion and lack of energy.

Less frequently noticed

    • Bowel disorders.
    • Brittle nails.
    • Chest pain.
    • Headaches and migraines.
    • Sore throat.
    • Swelling of legs.
    • Cramps.
    • Decreased libido.
    • Easy bruising.
    • Hair loss.

We are all different, therefore, not everybody will be experiencing the exact same symptoms. But if you believe you are suffering from one of these thyroid conditions, your symptoms will continue to increase unless appropriate treatment is given to you3.

Identifying your thyroid issue

Thyroid in Women

In Australia, the most common thyroid disorders are known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease. These are autoimmune conditions (autoimmune means that your body is attacking itself using its defence system to attack your thyroid)4.

A thyroid function test should be performed, measuring the levels of thyroid hormones in your blood. There are also many other factors to be considered when diagnosing and treating current and imminent thyroid issues. In Australia, for example, the most common thyroid disorders are known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease. These are autoimmune conditions (autoimmune means that your body is attacking itself using its defence system to attack your thyroid)4.

If you are experiencing many of the listed symptoms, it is fundamental to ask your doctor about the levels of your thyroid hormones but also to request an examination of your thyroid antibodies, which would tell your doctor about the development of any of the autoimmune conditions just mentioned (Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease)4.

Thyroid cancer is one of the few cancers that has increased in incidence rates over recent years. It occurs in all age groups, from children through to seniors. It happens when cells in your thyroid are changed or mutated, growing and multiplying rapidly and losing their ability to die (as normal cells do). These irregular cells can occupy the tissue near to your thyroid and extent all over your body. So, a doctor should be seen if there is a lump or swelling in the front of your neck or in other parts of your neck5.

In most cases, your thyroid symptoms are alleviated by thyroid medication, but there are several additional actions that can improve your health further or prevent the evolution of other issues or autoimmune conditions like infertility, coeliac disease, eczema, type 1 diabetes, Addison’s disease, anaemia, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and many others4.

The SA Wellness Centre provides you with local first-hand information and expertise to help you address any thyroid condition, associated symptoms and issues. Their services and expertise are accessible via personal consultation (no booking needed) and informative events or seminars.

Their South Australians specialists (e.g. naturopaths and dietitians) work together with other health practitioners to investigate your case and improve your health and wellbeing. They use a combination of evidence-based nutritional and herbal medicines, dietary, lifestyle advice and many other techniques designed and adapted to your specific needs and situation.  They will help you identify, relieve or prevent any thyroid symptom or connected issue.

 

References

1             Thyroid disorders: Top Ten Facts. (2009). Thyroid Federation International. https://www.thyroidaware.com/content/dam/web/health-care/biopharma/thyroidweek/910_087-Top-Ten-Facts-Leaflet__EN_09_11_2009.pdf . (Accessed on the 14th of March 2019).

2              National Sleep Foundation. (2019). Is Your Thyroid to Blame for Your Sleep Issues? https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/your-thyroid-blame-your-sleep-issues. (Accessed on the 12th of March 2019).

3              2001-2019 myDr.com.au. (2019). Thyroid gland disorders. https://www.mydr.com.au/first-aid-self-care/thyroid-gland-disorders. (Accessed on the 11th of March 2019).

4              Cabot, S. (2006). Your Thyroid Problems Solved. SCB International.

  1. 2019 ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, Inc. (2019). Thyroid Cancer Types, Stages and Treatment Overview. http://www.thyca.org/about/types/ . (Accessed on the 14th of March 2019).

* The author thanks and acknowledges the valuable feedback provided by Lauryn Pountney.

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