Hypothyroidism Symptoms to Watch Out for
Hypothyroidism, or “low thyroid,” is a condition due to insufficient thyroid hormone production which affects almost 5 percent of the population. The symptoms of hypothyroidism abound.
Hypothyroidism can result from iodine insufficiency (especially in developing countries), exposure to radioactive Iodine-131, autoimmune destruction of the thyroid glands (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), absence of the thyroid gland (e.g. from surgical removal or in some people, the thyroid gland is found missing from birth), and from causes that are simply unknown.
Untreated hypothyroidism or symptoms of hypothyroid can lead to serious consequences, including life-threatening myxedema coma.
Because thyroid hormones regulate many systems of the human body, symptoms of hypothyroidism are diverse. This article may help you identify some of these symptoms.
Know If You Are at a Higher Risk
While hypothyroidism can affect anyone, you may be at higher risk of developing this condition if you have the following:
- A family history of thyroid conditions, especially in first degree relatives.
- Inadequate iodine intake (iodine is needed to make thyroid hormones).
- Are female – Hypothyroid has a higher incidence in women versus men.
- Exposure to radioactive Iodine-131 (it gets taken up by the thyroid gland and the radioactivity destroys the gland).
- Within 1 year of giving birth to a child – this is known as postpartum thyroiditis and affects about 5 percent of postpartum women.
- Very high iodine intake – while this may seem parodoxical, very high iodine intake can temporarily shut off thyroid hormone production – the Wolff–Chaikoff effect.
- Use of certain medications, such as lithium to treat bipolar disorder.
Congenital Hypothyroidism, a condition of thyroid hormone deficiency present at birth:
This affects approximately 1 in 4000 newborns and is usually detected during newborn screening in developed countries. Severe congenital hypothyroidism can lead to growth failure and permanent mental retardation if left untreated.
So what are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
19 Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Recognize the early symptoms of hypothyroidism (mild thyroid hormone deficiency):
- Poor muscle tone
- Fatigue, or feeling tired sluggish or weak
- Cold intolerance (increased sensitivity to cold)
- Muscle cramps and joint pain
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Thin, brittle fingernails
- Thin, brittle or coarse hair
- Paleness or a yellowish tint to the skin
- Decreased sweating
- Dry, itchy skin
- Weight gain
- Bradycardia (low heart rate – less than sixty beats per minute)
- Slow body movements
- Memory problems
- Problems concentrating and focusing
- Heavy, long or irregular menstrual periods
Recognize the late symptoms of hypothyroidism (more severe thyroid hormone deficiency):
- All of the above
- Slow speech and a hoarse, breaking voice; also deepening of the voice
- Dry puffy skin, especially on the face
- Thinning of the outer third of the eyebrows (sign of Hertoghe)
- Abnormal menstrual cycles
- Low basal body temperature
If you think you may have hypothyroidism, seek professional help from a doctor specializing in the endocrine system (an endocrinologist), and better yet, a doctor specifically specializing in thyroid conditions.
- A common test is to check your blood levels of thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism is commonly treated by thyroid hormone supplements.
- Blood work for hypothyroid is controversial and not always interpreted properly. Checking basal body temperature is now becoming recognized as a valid means for diagnosing hypothyroid.
Many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism may resemble the normal aging process. Be sure to determine whether your symptoms are a result of your thyroid.
Adapted from How to Recognize Symptoms of Hypothyroidism