Your thyroid is a major hormone gland that directs the function of many body systems. Any condition that affects thyroid function alters hormone production and disrupts the normal workings of your body.
Thyroid disorders are common, affecting more than 20 million people in the United States. Though anyone can develop a problem with their thyroid at any age, thyroid disorders are more common in women.
At Salem Wellness Clinic in Salem, Oregon, Dr. Laika Rodriguez and Nurse Practitioner Rebecca Kelly specialize in diagnosing and treating thyroid disorders.
Signs and symptoms of a thyroid disorder vary depending on the type. However, the symptoms may be subtle and go unnoticed and undiagnosed for years.
Here, we want to provide you with a guide for spotting the warning signs of thyroid disorders. You may find that your weight struggles may have more to do with your hormones than lack of willpower.
About your thyroid
Your thyroid is a bowtie-shaped gland found in the front of your neck, below your Adam’s apple, and above your windpipe. Part of the endocrine system, it produces three hormones, including
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
- Tetraiodothyronine (T4)
From a medical standpoint, T3 and T4 are the primary thyroid hormones. These hormones control your body’s basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy (calories) your body needs to maintain normal body functions.
In essence, these hormones control heart rate, body temperature, digestion, and reflexes. They also play a significant role in controlling growth and development.
Calcitonin regulates blood calcium levels and bone metabolism.
Your pituitary gland — located at the base of your brain — controls the thyroid by producing the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH dictates the production and release of T3 and T4.
With a thyroid disorder, your thyroid gland overproduces or underproduces thyroid hormones.
Symptoms of a thyroid hormone imbalance
When your thyroid gland overproduces thyroid hormones, your BMR increases, meaning your body burns more energy than it should. This is a condition called hyperthyroidism.
With hyperthyroidism, you may have:
- An enlarged thyroid gland
- Heat intolerance
- Infrequent or irregular menstrual periods
- Irritability or feelings of nervousness
- Sleep disturbances
- Vision problems
- Weight loss
- Heart palpitations
On the flip side, when your thyroid underproduces thyroid hormones, your BMR slows down, and your body burns less energy. This is called hypothyroidism, which may cause symptoms such as:
- Dry or itchy skin
- Frequent or heavy menstrual periods
- Hair loss,
- Hoarse voice
- Sensitivity to cold
- Weight gain, or difficulty losing weight
Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the US. It occurs when your immune system attacks and destroys the hormone-producing cells in your thyroid.
Spotting the warning signs of a thyroid disorder
Thyroid disorder symptoms develop slowly over years and may go unnoticed. Additionally, these symptoms are similar to other health conditions and life stages, like menopause, which may delay a diagnosis.
However, knowing some warning signs of a thyroid disorder may help you spot some differences and get the diagnosis and support you need.
Warning signs of a thyroid disorder:
Changes in energy levels
A drastic change in energy level may be an early warning sign of a thyroid disorder. With hypothyroidism, you may battle chronic exhaustion. And with hyperthyroidism, you may feel overly anxious and jittery.
Changes in weight
As noted, your thyroid hormones dictate the amount of energy your body burns running various body functions. If you’re struggling to lose or gain weight, there may be a problem with thyroid hormone production.
Changes in hair or skin
Changes in thyroid hormone levels, whether you’re producing too much or too little, affect the hair and skin. If your hair is thinning or fine and brittle, it may be due to a thyroid disorder. Changes in thyroid hormone levels may also make your skin dry.
We create individualized plans that include lifestyle and dietary changes. The goal is to encourage their body to heal itself, restore hormone balance, alleviate your symptoms, and improve your quality of life.
Thyroid disorders are common and may go unnoticed. If you have some warning signs, make an appointment at Salem Wellness Clinic. Call us at 503-581-9355 or request an appointment online.