January is Thyroid Awareness Month

January is Thyroid Awareness Month

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The Early Warning Signs of Thyroid Problems

Learn the early warning signs of thyroid problems.
The Early Warning Signs of Thyroid Problems
Last updated:
12/22/2022
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Are you always tired? Obviously, you just need more sleep! Are you inexplicably gaining weight, even though you haven’t changed your diet plan or exercise schedule? Just eat less and work out more! Is there so much hair in your clogged drain that you need a bottle of Drano? It’s probably just stress! Are you feeling blue? No problem! Here’s a prescription for an antidepressant!

These scenes play out across the nation every single day. What’s going on? You – and even your doctor – are missing the early warning signs of a thyroid problem!

Thyroid hormones produced by your thyroid gland – a small, butterfly-shaped gland in your neck – are essential to all your body’s functions. The most common malfunction is a slowdown, an underactive thyroid condition known as hypothyroidism. The challenge is that the common symptoms of hypothyroidism are seen in many conditions, making it much harder to get a diagnosis.

Let’s look at some early warning signs of thyroid problems you don’t want to overlook.

Fatigue

Excessive fatigue is one of the most common and overlooked symptoms of an underactive thyroid. Even after 8 hours of sleep, you could wake up tired and unrefreshed. Or, you may find yourself in desperate need of a nap before you barely have enough energy to make dinner. In some cases, you may notice that you’re sleeping ten or more hours on the weekend and still have a lack of energy. If you’re regularly getting seven or more hours of sleep a night and you’re still exhausted with flagging energy levels, it’s time to check your thyroid!

Weight Gain (Or Difficulty Losing Weight)

Another common thyroid warning sign is noticing that you’re slowly – or even rapidly – gaining weight, even though you haven’t changed your diet, calorie intake, or activity level. Or, you may have decided to focus on weight loss – even trying an extreme or crash diet – but you’re getting no results. Thyroid hormones are essential to metabolism, and weight challenges mean it’s time to check your thyroid!

Brain Fog and Memory Problems

Have you noticed that your memory is not what it used to be? Are you more forgetful than usual or feeling spaced out and foggy-brained? Is it more challenging to concentrate and focus? Before you reach for ADHD medications, it’s time to check your thyroid!

Mood Changes

Are you noticing that you’re feeling depressed or anxious, but there’s no apparent reason? Lately, do you need an increased dosage of your antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication? Mild or moderate mood changes are often an early warning sign telling you it’s time to check your thyroid!

Hair and Nail Changes

Is your hairbrush full of hair after every brushing? Are your fingernails weak, splitting, or breaking? Is your hairline starting to recede slightly? Do you have dry or coarse hair? Hair loss and hair and nail problems are common early warning signs of hypothyroidism. When you’re starting to think about wigs, extensions, hair plugs, and acrylic nails, it’s time to check your thyroid!

Dry Skin

Has your skin become rough, dry, and itchy? Are you frustrated that your moisturizing creams, lotions, and oils don’t work on scaly skin? Are you noticing that your lines and facial wrinkles have become more visible lately? Dry skin – including on the feet, hands, and elbows – is a characteristic sign of a thyroid issue and means it’s time to check your thyroid!

Dry Eyes

Is your vision blurry, but it clears up with eyedrops? Are your eyes feeling dry, sore, and itchy? Do your eyes look more red than usual? Dry eyes and vision changes are familiar symptoms of an underactive thyroid. It’s clear that it’s time to check your thyroid!

Constipation

Are you irregular or even chronically constipated? Are you loading up on water, fiber, and laxatives and still not getting relief? While it’s not discussed enough, periodic or chronic constipation signals that it’s time to check your thyroid!

Feeling Cold

Are you wearing a sweater in the summer? Are you shivering when everyone else is sweating? Is your morning body temperature lower than 98.6? Do you have cold hands? The thyroid helps regulate body temperature, and a low morning reading, cold intolerance, and feeling chilled in hot temperatures are common signs of hypothyroidism. It’s time to check your thyroid!

Neck and Throat Discomfort

Does it feel like food gets stuck in your throat? Do turtlenecks, scarves, and ties make you feel uncomfortable? Is your voice hoarse? Do you notice that you have trouble swallowing? An underactive thyroid can become enlarged and cause discomfort and vocal changes. It’s time to check your thyroid!

Erratic Menstrual Periods

Are your menstrual periods becoming longer, shorter, or heavier? Are you too young for menopause, but your periods are unpredictable? Sometimes, the first signs of an underactive thyroid gland are changes in your menstrual flow and menstrual cycle. It’s time to check your thyroid!

Infertility/Recurrent Miscarriage

Are you struggling to become pregnant? Have you had several unexplained miscarriages? Are you frustrated at failed attempts at IVF or other assisted reproduction interventions? A functioning thyroid is essential for fertility. It’s time to check your thyroid!

Low Sex Drive

Has your sex drive disappeared? Are you noticing much less sizzle between the sheets? Loss of libido is a hypothyroidism symptom and a common warning sign that it’s time to check your thyroid!

Early Warning Signs Your Doctor Can Detect

In some cases, your doctor can observe additional warning signs of hypothyroidism during an in-person exam. These include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Slow heart rate
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Goiter, an enlarged thyroid
  • Palpable lumps on the thyroid (thyroid nodules)
  • Bruit, a sound caused by abnormal blood flow around the thyroid, detectable by stethoscope

A Note from Paloma

Is it time to check your thyroid? The most convenient way to start is to measure your thyroid hormone levels with a Paloma Complete Test Kit. From the comfort of your home, you can painlessly and affordably test your TSH, Free T4, Free T3, and TPOAb. Just mail in your test kit, and you’ll have your accurate lab test results back quickly and securely!

The conventional way of diagnosing hypothyroidism is to identify a Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) level that’s elevated above the reference range. However, in some cases, you can have a TSH in the normal range but borderline or low Free Thyroxine (Free T4) or Free Triiodothyronine (Free T3) levels. These borderline levels can be evidence that your thyroid is slowing down.

You can also have normal TSH, Free T4, and Free T3 levels with elevated Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOAb). This generally indicates that you have an autoimmune disease known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which, over time, can lead to full hypothyroidism.

Paloma’s knowledgeable thyroid doctors are available for virtual hypothyroidism care. They can work with you to carefully diagnose hypothyroidism at an early stage, including borderline and subclinical hypothyroidism. Paloma practitioners can also prescribe medication to help return your thyroid levels to normal and resolve your symptoms of an underactive thyroid.

When it’s time to check your thyroid, you can trust Paloma Health to partner with you through the entire process!

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References:

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid) | NIDDK. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Published July 7, 2019. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hypothyroidism

Learn more about hypothyroidism and symptoms with Paloma Health. www.palomahealth.com. Published February 17, 2022. Accessed December 21, 2022. https://www.palomahealth.com/tags/symptoms

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Mary Shomon

Patient Advocate

Mary Shomon is an internationally-recognized writer, award-winning patient advocate, health coach, and activist, and the New York Times bestselling author of 15 books on health and wellness, including the Thyroid Diet Revolution and Living Well With Hypothyroidism. On social media, Mary empowers and informs a community of more than a quarter million patients who have thyroid and hormonal health challenges.

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