Thyroid hormones are crucial for your body as they regulate multiple functions including the metabolism rate – that is the rate at which how fast you burn calories and how fast your heartbeats. If your body’s thyroid levels are abnormally high, you can develop a condition called hyperthyroidism. If your thyroid levels drop below the normal threshold, it’s called hypothyroidism. Both conditions are serious and can lead to severe health complications if not addressed in their early stages.
In this article, we explain what thyroid hormone is and its importance, hypothyroidism symptoms, how to get your levels back to normal, and more.
What is Thyroid?
The thyroid gland is a small 2-inch long, butterfly-shaped gland that lies in front of your throat below Adam’s apple which is also known as thyroid cartilage. This hormone helps in controlling growth, cell repair, and metabolism. It also makes and stores thyroid hormones that affect nearly every cell in your body.
Importance of Thyroid
The Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) secretes hormones called T3 and T4 that are responsible for monitoring and controlling everything including your breathing, heart rate, muscle strength, and even body temperature. Apart from these, they play a vital role in regulating –
- Central and peripheral nervous systems
- Menstrual cycles
- Cholesterol levels
In both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, age, and sex are the main risk factors. However, women between the ages of 40-60 years old have the highest risk of developing thyroid disorders compared to men, according to Augusta Health. The chances increase even more if you have a family history of thyroid issues.
As Hypothyroidism is the most commonly seen thyroid disorder, we shall now look at the 4 health conditions that signal when you have underactive thyroid, i.e. Hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism – Underactive TSH
Approximately 90% of primary hypothyroidism is caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease where your immune system mistakenly triggers an attack against your thyroid gland, assuming it is a foreign invader. Some of the other causes are iodine deficiency, a genetic disorder, taking certain medications, and surgery that removes part of the thyroid.
As a consequence of insufficient thyroid, you may experience tiredness, hair loss, weight gain, feeling cold, depression, joint pain, heart disease, and feeling down, among many other symptoms. Hypothyroidism affects 1–2% of people worldwide and is ten times more likely to affect women than men, according to Oxford University Press. Following are the 4 most common conditions that indicate your thyroid levels need to be pumped up –
1. Unexplained weight gain
The more severe your hypothyroidism is the more likely you’ll add up pounds in weight. The extra weight gained is due to the deposition of salt and water which would have been otherwise regulated and eliminated by appropriate thyroid levels. Typically, 5-10 pounds of additional body weight can be attributable to hypothyroidism.
2. Muscle weakness
Hypothyroid Myopathy is a condition in which muscle weakness and fatigue occur due to a lack of thyroid hormone. According to a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than 80% of people have experienced muscle weakness and fatigue.
3. Dry skin
Lack of thyroid can affect the skin, causing swelling and redness known as myxedema. Myxedema is more specific to thyroid problems than other causes of dry skin, it is generally detected in seriously advanced Hypothyroid cases.
4. Slow heart rate
Insufficient thyroid hormone can stumble your heart rate. Elevated cholesterol levels, also be another possible consequence of low thyroid levels as it causes narrowing of the arteries.
Apart from the above conditions, you may also encounter high cholesterol levels, memory impairment, swollen face, hoarse voice, and constipation. Men with hypothyroidism can experience erectile dysfunction, trouble sore muscles, and loss of interest in sex.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism – Overactive TSH
Similar to lack of thyroid conditions, when your body generates more thyroid than the actual required amount it causes certain side effects. This is called Hyperthyroidism and the following are the signs you can experience if you have Hyperthyroidism.
- Unexplained weight loss (even with an increased appetite)
- Irregular heartbeat
- Tremors in your hands or fingers
- Disrupted sleep
- Swollen thyroid
- Changes in bowel movements
- Heat sensitivity
- Changes in menstruation
- Thinning of the skin
Women are more prone to get hyperthyroidism than men. There are a number of underlying causes for Hyperthyroidism, they are – Graves’ disease, Plummer’s disease, and thyroiditis.
How to Bring Thyroid Levels Back to Normal?
A combination of the right diet and medication can help restore thyroid levels return to normal and minimize your symptoms.
In the case of hypothyroidism, the following foods should be avoided –
- sweet potatoes
In the case of an overactive thyroid include sources that are high in iodine, selenium, and zinc.
If your hyperthyroid condition is worsening, anti-thyroid medications and radioactive iodine will be prescribed to slow the production of thyroid hormones. If that doesn’t work, surgery to remove all or part of your thyroid gland will be advised.
Thyroid hormones regulate multiple functions in your body. It is vital that you keep an eye on the above symptoms and check for abnormal levels. Any unusual symptoms need to be addressed as quickly as possible. Because, when it comes to thyroid disorder, the sooner the diagnosis and treatment the better it is to avoid serious long-term consequences.
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