Thyroid is a two-inch long butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located at the base of the neck. It regulates vital body functions such as essential role in numerous body functions such as breathing, heart rate, central and peripheral nervous systems, body weight, muscle strength, menstrual cycles, body temperature, cholesterol levels and much more. The thyroid gland can sometimes produce less than required hormones, a condition called hypothyroidism. Sometimes it produces more than required hormones, a condition called hyperthyroidism.
Women are more vulnerable to thyroid disease than men, especially right after pregnancy and menopause. According to the stats – 1 out of 8 women suffers from thyroid disease worldwide yet 60% of women are clueless about its symptoms. It is usually so because the warning signs of thyroid can be confused with other health concerns.
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Some Warning Signs of Thyroid
Fatigue & Weakness
At a time when fatigue and lack of energy have become extremely common, it is easy to ignore them as an indication of something serious. Irregular fatigue and chronic exhaustion can be warning signs of a thyroid issue. Since the thyroid gland regulates metabolism, an overactive thyroid flares up the metabolism and causes energy loss and weakness. On the contrary, an underactive thyroid could decline metabolic function, causing you to feel lethargic and tired. Fatigue and weakness caused by the thyroid can also result in heart palpitations, muscle weakness and joint pains.
Unexplained Weight Gain or Loss
Since the thyroid gland plays a vital role in metabolism, any unexplained fluctuation in weight may indicate thyroid. Low levels of thyroid hormones in the body can cause weight gain, whereas a hyperactive thyroid could secrete excessive hormones causing abrupt weight loss. In the case of hypothyroidism, the body gains substantial weight and hyperthyroidism causes significant weight loss.
Sensitivity to Heat or Cold
Due to an overactive thyroid, the metabolism flares up and the body burns more calories than usual. Not only does this affect the weight but also causes heat sensitivity. Heat intolerance, abnormal sweating and even anxiety are tell-tale signs of hyperthyroidism. On the other hand, hypothyroidism causes the metabolism to slow down and impedes the body’s natural ability to create energy to keep it warm. As a result, people with hypothyroidism can become extremely sensitive to cold temperatures and often experience cold hands and feet.
Pigmentation Around the Neck
An extremely common early symptom of the thyroid is the darkening of skin folds around the neck. Often missed easily, this pigmentation is caused by hormonal flurry and is most common when the thyroid gland is malfunctioning. Since the thyroid is also responsible for maintaining skin and hair health, any disruption in the hormonal levels could also cause dry or oily skin, itchy scalp, thinning hair or brittle nails. If you notice one or more of these symptoms, it is advisable to get your thyroid levels checked.
An underlying thyroid issue can cause people to find sleeping difficult or troublesome. If you have been tossing and turning in the bed, it could be an indication of thyroid dysfunction. An overactive thyroid can impact mood, nervous system and make you feel tired, thereby making it hard to sleep soundly. A few associated symptoms that may disrupt sleep could be night sweats and frequent urination. It has also been reported that an underactive thyroid could result in poor quality sleep, delayed or prolonged sleep onset and shorter sleep span.
Anxiety & Brain Fog
Ever since the pandemic, mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, burnout and brain fog have been brought to the fore. Such symptoms should not be ignored or taken lightly as they may indicate something serious. Women suffering from thyroid are more prone to experience anxiety, nervousness, tremors, mood swings as well as brain fog. Additionally, hypothyroidism can present symptoms such as memory loss, lack of concentration and loss of energy. If left ignored for a long time, these symptoms can turn into grave diseases.
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While menstrual irregularities are often treated as warning signs of PCOS or infertility, they may be an indication of thyroid too. Disruption in the thyroid levels can cause changes in the periodic cycle and impact the usual menstrual flow. Since, the thyroid gland is responsible for controlling the reproductive system, lower or higher thyroid hormones can make periods lighter, heavier or scantier. Women above the age of 35 may experience an absence of periods for long spells or early onset of menopause.
Thyroid disorder can impact the body in numerous ways and present a wide range of symptoms. These include changes in energy levels, weight, heart rate and sensitivity to cold or heat amongst others. While these symptoms are the most common early warning signs of thyroid but not an accurate diagnosis. It is advised that on noticing these symptoms you should visit a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
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