It’s a force of habit to assume that some symptoms are transitory and mostly caused by the flu or cold, and simply let time deal with it. But, we shouldn’t fool ourselves or neglect the signs that indicate more complicated health issues, for instance, lightheadedness can be a symptom of heart disease in women.
Therefore, it is of high importance to learn to listen to the signals our body sends to us, as it can sometimes help us treat serious medical problems on time.
The thyroid is a small gland located in the throat, on the front of the neck, and is in the shape of a butterfly. Its role is to produce the thyroid hormone (or TH), which regulates the heartbeat, temperature, and metabolism.
Its imbalance can lead to two conditions, it can become overactive, and produce excessive amounts of the hormone, leading to hyperthyroidism, or it can be decelerated and release too little of the hormone, causing hypothyroidism.
These are the most common signs of the impeded function of this gland:
Neck or Throat Discomfort
If you feel discomfort or pain in the neck, where the thyroid gland is actually located, as well as a voice change, a lump in the throat, or a goiter, you may suffer from thyroid issues. If you can notice a swelling in the area, you should further the investigation, according to AACE Thyroid Awareness:
“Hold a mirror in your hand, focusing on the lower front area of your neck, above the collarbones, and below the voice box. Your thyroid gland is located in this area of your neck.
While focusing on this area in the mirror, tip your head back. Take a drink of water and swallow. As you swallow, look at your neck. Check for any bulges or protrusions in this area when you swallow. (Reminder: Don’t confuse the Adam’s apple with the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located further down on your neck, closer to the collarbone. You may want to repeat this process several times.)
If you do see any bulges or protrusions in this area, see your physician. You may have an enlarged thyroid gland or a thyroid nodule that should be checked to determine whether further evaluation is needed.”
High Blood Pressure
If you cannot find a way to treat your high blood pressure, even if you exercise and change your dietary habits, you need to check your thyroid. Namely, the reduced function of this gland may raise the levels of “bad” cholesterol, and thus lead to an enlarged heart or heart failure.
Hair Loss and Dry Skin
Hypothyroidism may often be indicated by dry skin, even during the winter, as even the sweating is reduced by the slowed metabolism.
Moreover, you may have brittle nails and experience hair loss, as the thyroid hormone interrupts the hair growth cycle, leading to loss of the hair, and even outside of your eyebrows.
Dr. Miller explains “Lots of my patients come in and tell me that their hairdresser sent them. They’ll say, ‘My hair stylist said I’m losing my hair and I needed to go ask my doctor about my thyroid.’ The hair salons are more aware of thyroid problems than some doctors!”
Sudden Weight Gain
According to WebMD, if you haven’t changed your dietary or lifestyle habits, and you are suddenly gaining weight, it may indicate a serious problem. This is one of the most common problems patients visit the office of Dr. Miller.
“They’ll tell me that they aren’t eating any more than usual, but they’re gaining weight. They are exercising, but they are getting nowhere. They can’t lose it. It’s almost always due to an under-active thyroid,” she adds.
The integrative medicine specialist Dr. Robin Miller claims that “This is one of the top three most common symptoms of hypothyroidism.” If you suffer from constipation and cannot solve it, it is probably a disruption in thyroid hormone production, which has led to a decelerated digestion.
Increased Appetite or Changes in Taste
If the taste of the food you consume becomes strange and different, the reduced thyroid function may have an impact on your sense of smell and taste.
If you just cannot stop eating, you may suffer from hyperthyroidism — or an overactive thyroid. This means that the “hyper” part of the disorder will balance out all the consumed calories, so you may not gain weight.
Pain in the muscles
In case you regularly experience strange tightening or numbness in the legs, arms, hands, or feet, it may be due to thyroid issues, as the deficiency in this hormone damages nerves, and they send signals to the rest of the body. Dr. Miller adds “The result is ‘unexplained’ tingles and twinges.”
The thyroid may intensify the fuzziness in the brain, and excessive amounts of thyroid hormone may lead to forgetfulness and concentration issues.
“When we treat patients for hypothyroidism, they are often surprised at how fast their brain fog goes away and how much sharper they feel. Many women think it’s just something that comes along with menopause, when it really is a sign of a thyroid problem,” says Dr. Miller. “
If you feel a more pronounced fluttering in the heart than when you are in love, and you feel like your heart is skipping a beat, or you feel it in the pulse points of your neck and wrist, you may experience heart palpitations, which are a sign of too many thyroid hormones in the system.