Thyroid gland produces hormones that control metabolism. Any disorder of the gland can either rev up or slow metabolism by disrupting the production of thyroid hormones and produce a wide range of symptoms. Knowing and recognizing them is critical to get the right treatment and avoid further health problems.
1. Weight changes. Unexplained change in weight is the most common sign of thyroid disease. Gaining weight may signal underactive thyroid, whereas losing weight unexpectedly may indicate an overactive gland. As a rule, it is difficult to lose weight despite exercising and diet with underactive thyroid, and it is difficult to maintain or put on weight while eating as usual or increasing caloric intake with overactive gland.
At the same time, one can be hypothyroid and underweight, losing weight or unable to gain weight. Or, one can be hyperthyroid and unable to lose weight despite ramping up exercise and reducing calories.
2. Sensitivity to temperature. Thyroid diseases can disrupt the ability to regulate body temperature. Thus, if you are hypothyroid, you may feel intolerant to low temperatures and feel cold more often than usual. On the contrary, if you are hyperthyroid, you may feel hot and sweaty despite normal background temperatures and may be aversive to heat.
3. Changes in energy and sleep. General fatigue and sleep issues are signposts of thyroid disease. Hypothyroid people will wake up exhausted even after a full night’s sleep, tend to take long naps and have marathon sleep sessions on their days off. Hyperthyroid patients have hard time falling asleep, wake up during the night and experience anxiety at bedtime. All this can result in physical and emotional exhaustion.
4. Changes in mood. Depression, anxiety and mood swings can indicate a thyroid problem. People with underactive thyroid often feel tired, sluggish and have depressive mood and symptoms that do not respond to antidepressants. With overactive thyroid, people become restless, irritable and may develop anxiety, panic disorders and panic attacks.
5. Changes in heart rate. Thyroid regulates how fast your heart beats. Thus, you may notice your heart rate slower than usual with underactive thyroid, and your heart rate speed up with overactive gland. Overactive thyroid may also trigger high blood pressure and the sensation of racing heart or heart palpitations.
6. Skin, hair and nail changes. Both underactive and overactive thyroid can cause hair to fall and affect skin and nails, too. In hypothyroidism hair may become dry, brittle, coarse and break easily. Skin becomes dry, thick and scaly, especially on the knees and elbows. Nails become thin, brittle and dull. In hyperthyroidism hair becomes fine and thinning. There increases skin sensitivity and smoothness. Unusual skin rashes appear.
7. Changes in bowel movements. Digestive problems, such as severe constipation or constipation that doesn’t respond to laxatives, are common with hypothyroidism. In contrast, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and loose stools are common with hyperthyroidism.
8. Aches and pains. Unexplained pain in muscles and joints, especially in the arms and legs, is a symptom of thyroid issues. Numbness or tingling in the hands is common with hypothyroidism, whereas muscle weakness, trembling hands and pain in the upper arms and calves are common with hyperthyroidism.
9. Changes in sex life. Little or no desire for sex can be a side effect of thyroid problem. Too little thyroid hormone can contribute to low libido, and the cumulative effect of other symptoms, including weight gain, low energy and pain, add to the problem.
10. Cycle changes. Menstrual irregularities are common symptoms of thyroid disease in women. Hypothyroid women often have painful menses with heavy flow and little time between periods. Hyperthyroid women have shorter periods with lighter flow and infrequent periods, which can stop altogether.