Signs you might have a thyroid problem

When your thyroid stops working as it should, you can experience a variety of symptoms that might seem unrelated or even odd. From chills and brain fog to thinning hair and weight gain, if your thyroid isn’t functioning well, you may be experiencing symptoms that are subtle and hard to characterize.

Women are more likely to experience issues with their thyroid, but anyone can suffer thyroid problems. Recognizing the symptoms of an overactive or underactive thyroid is the best way to get the treatment you need.

 

Symptoms of a thyroid problem

Your thyroid is one of the major regulators of hormones in your body.  It can affect things like sleep, heart rate, and core body temperature. Watch for the following symptoms.

Menstrual cycle changes

Both an overactive and underactive thyroid can cause changes in your menstrual cycle. For example, if your periods become closer together, heavier, or longer, you may be dealing with an underactive thyroid that isn’t producing enough hormones. When your thyroid is producing too many hormones your period might get lighter and cycles more spaced apart.

Infertility and miscarriage

Low thyroid function can affect ovulation, causing infertility or even a miscarriage. An overactive thyroid can also cause problems for pregnant women, leading to miscarriage or other serious health problems for your baby.

Heart rate symptoms

Overactive thyroids can cause heart palpitations, high blood pressure, and an increased heart rate. 

Goiter

Any thyroid issue may cause your body to grow a goiter. A goiter is essentially an enlargement or growth in your neck where your thyroid is located.

Sleep problems

If you start experiencing new sleep problems, your thyroid could be to blame. When you have an underactive thyroid, your body may not be producing enough hormones to get you up and going for the day. This can leave you tired, even after getting enough sleep. In contrast, an overactive thyroid can fill you full of hormones that will overstimulate your system and keep you up at night.

Temperature control problems

Are you always hot – leading you to have hot flashes and excessive sweating? This revving of your metabolism might mean that you have an overactive thyroid. On the other hand, an underactive thyroid can leave you feeling cold and experiencing chills.

Unexplained weight loss or gain

Your weight can actually be one of the first indicators of a thyroid problem. Unexplained weight gain can mean your thyroid isn’t working hard enough, while unexplained weight loss, especially accompanied by ravenous hunger, means your thyroid is working overtime.

Brain fog

An overactive thyroid can interfere with your ability to concentrate. Memory loss, mental fatigue, or brain fog are all symptoms of a thyroid problem.

Thinning hair

Thinning hair, especially the hair on your eyebrows, can indicate that your thyroid has a problem. Your thyroid helps maintain hair growth through hormones. An underactive or an overactive thyroid, any thyroid problems can throw off hair growth. This can cause your hair to look thin.

Mood problems

Thyroid hormone imbalance can impact your brain and mood causing mood swings, anxiety or depression.

Bowel changes

Your thyroid helps regulate digestion. When your thyroid isn’t producing enough hormones to help with digestion, it’s easy to get constipated. An overactive thyroid might mean you’re going to the bathroom more often, and may even occasionally have diarrhea. 

When to call a doctor

In most cases, problems with your thyroid aren’t an emergency. If you feel you have some of the symptoms above, you can simply make an appointment with your doctor to discuss testing and treatment options. However, you should call your doctor immediately if:

  • You’re very drowsy, cold, and lethargic. This could be the start of a myxedema coma, which is caused by hypothyroidism that eventually leads to unconsciousness and in some cases death.
  • You have a rapid pulse, accompanied by a fever, agitation, or delirium.  This can indicate thyrotoxic crisis, a complication of hyperthyroidism.

It’s not always easy to know if you have a problem with your thyroid. Knowing some of the common symptoms of an underactive or overactive thyroid will help give you an idea of you need to talk to your doctor.

Talk with your primary care provider about testing and treatment of thyroid issues. They may refer you to an endocrinologist or thyroid specialist for follow-up care.