Could It Be a Thyroid Issue? 10 Surprising Symptoms
You may already know that a sluggish thyroid can make you feel tired, run down and even increase your likelihood of packing on a few pounds. But few people realize that every case of hypothyroidism (a.k.a. underactive thyroid) is unique.
“While it’s true that hypothyroidism slows down the body’s processes (since it’s not making enough thyroid hormone), many symptoms of the condition are easy to dismiss,” explains Shiri Levy, M.D., an endocrinologist at Henry Ford Health System. “And they often mimic other conditions.”
In fact, an estimated 12 million Americans are walking around with an undiagnosed thyroid problem. Some patients think they’re feeling blue because of the weather. Others think changing bowel habits are a product of their age or a poor diet. The key, of course, is learning what hypothyroidism really looks like so you can recognize the classic signs—and those that might catch you off guard, too.
Here, Dr. Levy highlights the 10 symptoms of hypothyroidism that often get overlooked:
- Constipation. Many people know an underactive thyroid slows things down, but they may not realize it affects the digestive system, too.
- Foggy thinking. Just as a sluggish thyroid can slow down your body (and your metabolism), it can also slow down your brain, too. The end result: an inability to focus. A person whose thyroid is extremely slow may even be slow to speak and speak slowly.
- Anxiety and depression. When your brain isn’t operating at full capacity, depression and anxiety naturally follow.
- Recurrent miscarriages. If a woman with an underactive thyroid gets pregnant and hasn’t been treated for hypothyroidism, complications may arise. On the plus side, if hypothyroidism is detected and treated, patients often go on to have successful pregnancies.
- Menstrual irregularities. A thyroid problem (whether underactive or hyperactive) often wreaks havoc on menstruation. A woman’s cycle might be longer or shorter, and they may have difficulty ovulating.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. An underactive thyroid can cause your body to retain water, even in your hands, wrists and fingers.
- Puffy face. Just as you can hold excess water in your hands and fingers, it can also show up on your face!
- Sensitivity to cold. If you feel cold when everyone else is comfortable, it could be a sign of hypothyroidism. After all, it takes energy to warm the body.
- Hair loss. Hair loss is common with hypothyroidism. With all systems slowing down, the body prioritizes critical survival functions. Hair growth isn’t one of them.
Related Topic: 5 Surprising Things That Affect Your Thyroid Medication
Think you may have a thyroid disorder? Ask your doctor to check your thyroid levels, especially if you have a family history of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune disease where the immune disease attacks and destroys the thyroid gland). A simple blood test could bring you one step closer to relief.
Dr. Shiri Levy is a board-certified physician who specializes in managing disorders of the thyroid, parathyroid, pituitary, and adrenal glands, lipids, osteoporosis and diabetes. She sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Centers in Novi and Detroit, and is the service chief of endocrinology at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.