Common Thyroid Problems
Many symptoms of thyroid disorder can be confused with menopause, so best to know which is which.
Women at menopause in particular seem to have many signs of thyroid imbalance. Does fatigue drag you down day after day? Do you have brain fog, weight gain, chills, or hair loss?
Or is the opposite true for you: Are you often revved up, sweaty, or anxious? Your thyroid gland could be to blame. This great regulator of body and mind sometimes goes haywire, particularly in women.
What is the thyroid gland?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that control the speed of your metabolism — the system that helps the body use energy.
Thyroid disorders can slow down or rev up metabolism by disrupting the production of thyroid hormones. When hormone levels become too low or too high, you may experience a wide range of symptoms.
Symptom 1: Weight gain or loss
An unexplained change in weight is one of the most common signs of a thyroid disorder. Weight gain may signal low levels of thyroid hormones, a condition called hypothyroidism, and which is far more common in women.
The late Dr John Lee found in his own practice that low thyroid was often linked to oestrogen dominance and when the hormone were rebalanced there was less need for medication.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease. This is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the thyroid gland. The result is damage to the thyroid, preventing it from producing enough hormones. Hashimoto’s disease tends to run in families.
In contrast, if the thyroid produces more hormones than the body needs, you may lose weight unexpectedly. This is known as hyperthyroidism and you need to have this checked by your doctor.
The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease. This is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid gland and triggers the release of high levels of thyroid hormones. One of the hallmarks of Graves’ disease is a visible and uncomfortable swelling behind the eyes.
Symptom 2: Swelling in the neck
A swelling or enlargement in the neck is a visible clue that something may be wrong with the thyroid. A goitre may occur with either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
Sometimes swelling in the neck can result from thyroid cancer or nodules, lumps that grow inside the thyroid. It can also be due to a cause unrelated to the thyroid so again always consult your doctor.
Symptom 3: Changes in heart rate
Thyroid hormones affect nearly every organ in the body and can influence how quickly the heart beats. People with hypothyroidism may notice their heart rate is slower than usual.
Hyperthyroidism may cause the heart to speed up. It can also trigger increased blood pressure and the sensation of a pounding heart, or other types of heart palpitations.
Symptom 4: Changes in energy or mood
Thyroid disorders can have a noticeable impact on your energy level and mood. Hypothyroidism tends to make people feel tired, sluggish, and depressed.
Hyperthyroidism can cause anxiety, problems sleeping, restlessness, and irritability.
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Symptom 6: Hair Loss
Hair loss is another sign that thyroid hormones may be out of balance. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause hair to fall out.
In most cases, the hair will grow back once the thyroid disorder is treated.
Symptom 5: Feeling too cold or hot
Thyroid disorders can disrupt the ability to regulate body temperature. People with hypothyroidism may feel cold more often than usual.
Hyperthyroidism tends to have the opposite effect, causing excessive sweating and an aversion to heat.
Other symptoms of low thyroid levels
– Dry skin and brittle nails
– Numbness or tingling in the hands
– Abnormal menstrual periods
Other symptoms of too high thyroid levels
– Muscle weakness or trembling hands
– Vision problems
– Irregular menstrual periods
Thyroid disorder or menopause?
Because thyroid disorders can cause changes in menstrual cycle and mood, the symptoms are sometimes mistaken for menopause. If a thyroid problem is suspected, a simple blood test can determine whether it is menopause or a thyroid disorder — or a combination of the two.
Good hormone balance is certainly a key factor here as progesterone supports thyroid function and used by many women on medication for the low levels at menopause.
Thyroid issues are more common in women and having a family history raises your risk so if you think you have symptoms of a thyroid problem, ask your doctor if you should be tested. People with symptoms or risk factors may need tests more often.