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February 18, 2023 9 min read

Have you ever felt tired all day long even though you've had enough sleep? Or are you currently facing an unexplained body weight issue? If so, these could be a sign and symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism symptoms can be hard to spot since they are similar to those of other conditions. Moreover, the symptoms typically develop slowly, so you may not notice them in the early stages. But without the proper treatment, hypothyroidism can lead to complications like heart disease and infertility.

So, to help you recognize the symptoms in order to get timely treatment, we've compiled the most common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism below.


What is hypothyroidism?

First thing first, let's cover what hypothyroidism is. Hypothyroidism, also called underactive thyroid, occurs when the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone for your body.

The thyroid gland can be found on the lower front of your neck. It's responsible for producing and releasing two main hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which are collectively called the thyroid hormone. The main job of the hormone is to control your body's metabolism or the way your body transforms food into energy. Therefore, when you don't have enough thyroid hormone, your metabolism slows down.

The release of thyroid hormone is regulated by another hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). This hormone is released by the pituitary gland, a teeny-tiny organ that keeps an eye on your body.

In some cases, the thyroid gland can't release enough thyroid hormone, even though TSH levels are high. This is called primary hypothyroidism. It means that the problem lies within the thyroid gland itself. The main cause of primary hypothyroidism is Hashimoto's disease. This is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body's immune system attacks the thyroid gland, impairing its ability to produce enough hormones. Other possible causes include radiation therapy, surgical removal of the thyroid gland, and certain medications that can interfere with hormone production.

On the other hand, secondary hypothyroidism occurs when TSH levels are low, and the thyroid gland never gets the signal to ramp up thyroid hormone production. This can happen due to issues with the pituitary gland or the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that controls the pituitary gland.

Hypothyroidism can affect everyone of all ages. However, women are more likely to develop this thyroid disease, particularly after menopause.

What are the most common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism?

It's important to get a proper diagnosis from a healthcare provider, but the following list may help you recognize the first signs of hypothyroidism.

1. Weight gain

Have you experienced significant weight gain despite your best effort to maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise routine? This could be a sign of early-stage hypothyroidism. The thyroid hormone plays a role in body weight regulation, so when its level decreases, your body tends to store more calories from food as fat instead of burning them as fuel for your daily activity. This can lead to weight gain even when you're eating less.

According to studies, the body weight of hypothyroid patients may increase by 10% on average. They may also gain around 7 to 14 kg in the first year.

So, don't be hesitant to seek help if you're experiencing weight gain that you can't explain. Your body may be trying to tell you something, and it's better to address the issue sooner rather than later. Remember, your health is your wealth! Better safe than sorry.

2. Fatigue

Feeling constantly tired and lacking motivation are some other conditions that may occur when you have hypothyroidism. The explanation behind these symptoms is that since the thyroid hormones control your metabolism, it affects your energy levels. So when your body doesn't produce enough of the hormone, you can feel drained and exhausted even if you have enough sleep. Think of your thyroid like a power switch. When you don't have enough power, you need to switch things off and go to slacking mode.

3. Mood changes

One of the most common hypothyroid symptoms is changes in your mood. It may cause you to experience anxiety, depression, and apathy. These symptoms of hypothyroidism happen because your brain requires a certain amount of thyroid hormone to function properly.

4. Sore muscles and joints

People with an underactive thyroid will turn the metabolism process into catabolism. In this state, our body will break muscles as body tissues for energy. This decreases your muscle strength and may lead to aching. You might even notice that your joints feel swollen or painful. In fact, swelling and inflammation in the joints and soft tissues are common symptoms of hypothyroidism and can often be mistaken for rheumatoid arthritis.

5. High cholesterol

As it turns out, there's a fascinating connection between cholesterol and your thyroid gland. Research suggests that people with high levels of "bad" cholesterol may also have a problem with low thyroid hormone. It's important to note that high cholesterol can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, medical issues, an unhealthy lifestyle, and diet, as well as an underactive thyroid.

But how are cholesterol and hypothyroidism related? Well, it all comes down to the crucial role that thyroid hormone plays in the liver's ability to remove excess cholesterol from your body. When there's not enough thyroid hormone, this process slows down, leading to a build-up of cholesterol in your veins.

6. Sensitivity to cold

Have you ever felt cold on a piping hot day? Then this explanation may enlighten you.

Burning calories produce heat in your body. Even when you're doing nothing or just sitting around the front porch, your body is burning a small number of calories. But since your metabolism slows down when you have hypothyroidism, your body burns fewer calories and produces less heat.

That's why you may find yourself stuck with your sweater when other people wear their summer clothes and enjoy popsicles. In fact, about 40% of people with underactive thyroid feel more sensitive to colds than others.

7. Hair loss and brittle hair

Most of the cells in our body are controlled by thyroid hormones, including our hair follicles. People with thyroid function issues tend to have hair loss and brittle hair. In other cases, untreated hypothyroidism may be coarsening your hair. This can happen because hair follicles have a short lifespan, so they are more sensitive to low thyroid hormones. When you don't have enough thyroid hormones in your body, your hair follicles may stop regenerating.

8. Constipation

A low level of thyroid hormone can impact the digestive process, leading to a sluggish gut and slower stomach activity, which can result in constipation. This can eventually result in constipation.

Constipation can bring about other uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating, nausea, and the passing of hard, dry stool. If you're having trouble with constipation but don't have other health issues, try using natural laxatives before considering the possibility of hypothyroidism. If it worsens or persists, it may be time to seek medical attention.

9. Menstrual changes

Have you noticed that your periods have become irregular or heavier than usual? If you have an underactive thyroid, you may be experiencing these symptoms more often than someone with normal thyroid levels. Studies have shown that there is a strong link between hypothyroidism and menstrual irregularities.

Thyroid hormones play an important role in regulating our menstrual cycle by influencing the levels of other hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone. When thyroid hormone levels are low, it can lead to imbalances in these other hormones, resulting in irregular periods or heavy bleeding.

10. Goiter

Another common symptom of hypothyroidism is a goiter. This is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. You can easily identify it by feeling the front of your neck. If you feel like there's swelling, you may have a goiter. This swelling can result in a cough, a hoarse voice, and problems with breathing and swallowing.

11. Slow heart rate

The body functions of thyroid patients may be slower than regular people. The thyroid hormones control many organs, including your heart. In some cases, you may experience a slower heart rate if you have hypothyroidism. Also known as bradycardia, this means that your heart beats at a rate of 10 to 20 beats per minute slower than people with normal thyroid function. This condition can happen because of a spike-up in TSH level.

Bradycardia can cause breathing problems, dizziness, and weakness. Suppose this condition is left without any treatment. In that case, it can cause complications such as high or low blood pressure, unusual heartbeat, and hardened arteries. In the worst-case scenario, it can lead to heart failure.

12. Dry and itchy skin

Similar to hair follicles that we previously discussed, our skin cells are one of those cells that quickly regenerate. Therefore, they're also more sensitive to low-level thyroid hormones. Without enough of these hormones, the skin cells' regeneration slows down, and the outer layer of our skin may take longer to shed, leading to dry, flaky, and itchy skin.

13. Weak nails

Nails can be an indicator of our overall health, and in the case of hypothyroidism, they can be affected by the slow-down of body functions. People with an underactive thyroid gland tend to have thin, brittle, and flat nails that may also curve upward or become spoon-shaped. They are more fragile and prone to breakage, and the nail bed may appear pale.

14. Concentration or memory problems

Have you ever had one of those days where you just can't seem to focus or remember anything? It's frustrating and can make you feel like you're in a mental fog. Well, for people with hypothyroidism, that feeling can be a daily struggle.

Multiple studies have shown that individuals with underactive thyroid glands often experience trouble concentrating and have a harder time with memory and basic math skills. It's like their thoughts are shrouded in a fog, and they can't quite seem to grasp them. This can make everyday tasks and responsibilities more challenging and stressful.

While difficulties with memory and concentration can happen to anyone, it's important to pay attention to sudden changes. If you're finding it increasingly difficult to focus or remember things, it's a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider. They can evaluate your thyroid function and determine if hypothyroidism could be a contributing factor.

Are there other symptoms of hypothyroidism to watch out for?

In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, there are other signs of hypothyroidism that you need to pay attention to. They don't happen as often and usually pop up when you've been living with untreated hypothyroidism for a while. These include:

  • Sleep apnea

  • Infertility

  • Swollen face

  • Erectile dysfunction

  • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of your eyes

  • Feet muscle cramps or other body cramps

  • Pain, numbness, and tingling sensation in your hands or fingers

  • Upper respiratory tract infections

  • Repeated urinary tract infections.

Moreover, hypothyroidism is often related to other health conditions, such as adrenal fatigue, anemia, hyponatremia, and lack of coordination.

What are the treatment options for hypothyroidism?

Experiencing hypothyroidism symptoms and being diagnosed with the condition may seem scary, especially since there's no cure for the condition. But don't worry. You can control this condition by taking thyroid hormone replacement medication. The purpose of this medication is to restore your thyroid function by replacing hormone deficiency. Thus, allowing your body to get back to its optimal condition.

When it comes to treating hypothyroidism, one of the most common options is levothyroxine, a synthetic hormone designed to replace the T4 hormone in your body. However, there is another option that some people prefer, called Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT) or Desiccated Thyroid Extract (DTE). This is a natural treatment made from dried pig thyroid glands that contain both T4 and T3 hormones.

While levothyroxine is often the go-to choice recommended by medical professionals, some studies have shown that more people who have tried both levothyroxine and NDT prefer the latter as their thyroid hormone medicine.

You can buy desiccated thyroid online, such as VitaliThy. It contains both T4 and T3 hormones and is free from common allergens like gluten and lactose. Moreover, it adheres to the high-quality standards set by the Good Manufacturing Practices of the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture, an institution renowned for its stringent guidelines.

After starting on your thyroid hormone medication, you will likely need to visit your doctor regularly for blood tests to monitor your hormone levels. These results will be used to adjust your medication dose, and once you have found the correct amount and your levels are stable, you'll typically only need to get a blood test every six months. It's important to work closely with your doctor to find the right medication and dosage for your individual needs.

The takeaway

Hypothyroidism can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, and even depression. Keep in mind that this isn't the complete list of symptoms of hypothyroidism. Moreover, experiencing some of these symptoms doesn't automatically mean you have an underactive thyroid, but it might be a sign for you to investigate it further.

If you've received a hypothyroidism diagnosis, it's essential to get the proper treatment to manage the condition. Your healthcare provider may recommend thyroid hormone therapy to regulate your thyroid hormone levels and alleviate the symptoms. Therefore, talk to your doctor and ask for a blood test if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above. Don't suffer in silence – there are solutions available to help you feel like yourself again.

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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