The neck is essential in terms of aesthetics.
It is one of the areas in the human body where age is most difficult to hide.
But beyond our looks, it is also an essential structure with different neck organs and vital spots.
The neck is where the thyroid gland is located.
This organ modulates our metabolism and regulates how much energy we burn daily.
Thyroid health is essential for every cell in our body.
It regulates how many calories we consume. It changes our heartbeat, energy metabolism, and various brain functions.
With that in mind, what are the early warning signs of thyroid function problems?
Is hypothyroidism curable? What about hyperthyroidism?
This article will cover the answer to these questions and more.
Types of thyroid problems
The thyroid gland is complex and has many functions. Suppose you were diagnosed with a problem in your thyroid. It won’t be the same if you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
In fact, they have opposite signs and symptoms. There is also thyroid cancer and benign lesions such as cysts. The latter won’t necessarily give you problems.
The most common thyroid ailments include (1):
This is an underactive thyroid gland. The thyroid is not working as it should. Hormone production is insufficient.
The body’s metabolism becomes very slow, which reflects in the patient’s energy levels and other symptoms.
In this case, we have a hyperactive thyroid gland. It is releasing too much thyroid hormone.
Consequently, the metabolism is too fast, the body burns many calories, and patients feel very anxious.
As the name implies, it is an inflammation of the thyroid gland. There are different types of thyroiditis, but it is usually due to an autoimmune disease.
The most common thyroid cancer is papillary thyroid carcinoma. Some types of cancer are only tissue growths. Others produce thyroid hormones and cause secondary types of hyperthyroidism.
What are early warning signs of thyroid problems?
Hyperactive and underactive thyroid signs are opposite to each other. Symptoms of thyroid deficiency include fatigue, weight gain, and susceptibility to cold temperatures. In contrast, a hyperactive thyroid gland causes anxiety, weight loss, and hot flashes.
Thyroid problems that trigger hormonal alterations have the following warning signs:
This is one of the most common changes in thyroid disease. Thyroid hormones dominate the metabolism rate.
An overactive thyroid increases the rate of calorie burning, and patients start to lose weight.
An underactive thyroid has the opposite effect. The patient burns fewer calories and tends to gain bodyweight rapidly.
So, ask your doctor if you are experiencing unexpected and unplanned weight changes (2).
Energy metabolism alterations
The thyroid gland regulates how fast your metabolism is. An underactive thyroid causes low energy levels because carbohydrates are not processed as they should. It can be felt as fatigue, tiredness, exhaustion, or brain fog.
Similarly, the liver becomes sluggish in its role of processing cholesterol. Thus, your blood cholesterol level increases.
In contrast, hyperthyroidism features accelerated metabolism, which turns into catabolism. In other words, the body burns too many calories and starts to consume muscle tissue (3).
Can hypothyroidism cause diarrhea? Well, many things in the gastrointestinal system are regulated by the thyroid.
In hypothyroidism, the gut moves very slowly. Intestinal transit becomes slow, and there is constipation. But there is also bacterial overgrowth; when harmful bacteria grows, patients may experience diarrhea.
That is why both diarrhea and constipation can happen in the same patient. They are both early warning signs of thyroid disease (4).
Nervous system issues
In thyroid disease, it is also frequent to experience mood swings, anger, and depression. Patients become irritable when the thyroid is overactive. In such cases, anxiety is very common.
In contrast, an underactive thyroid causes forgetfulness and depression. Besides mood problems, you could also start experiencing peripheral neuropathy in hypothyroidism. However, this is usually a late sign of long-term disease (3).
Changes in heart function
Resting heart rate readings change due to thyroid hormones. That’s why overactive thyroid disease increases the heart rate. Patients may feel heart palpitations and sometimes develop or worsen their heart disease.
Besides heart function, blood circulation also changes due to thyroid disease. In hyperthyroidism, patients experience high blood pressure. The opposite is true of hypothyroidism (5).
Thyroid hormones regulate the reproductive system, too. Thus, hypothyroidism symptoms in females include menstrual irregularities. In males, hypothyroidism can also cause erection problems (6).
A change in neck volume is sometimes one of the early warning signs of thyroid disease. This is true in both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Similarly, thyroid nodules and tumors can change the size of the gland, which can be clearly seen in some cases (1).
Other signs and symptoms
Brittle nails and dry skin are also early thyroid disorder symptoms, making it difficult to maintain outlined nails and a manicure.
On the other hand, dry skin and changes in the hair follicles may lead to debris accumulation and skin breakouts.
Other common warning signs of thyroid problems are sleep problems. You may grow exhausted and sleepy with hypothyroidism or experience insomnia in hyperthyroidism.
Additional symptoms may include night sweats, body twitches, and pigmentation changes in the skin (1).
As noted, all symptoms of hypothyroidism are associated with slowing down of body functions. Hyperthyroidism is the opposite. Other thyroid problems cause a swollen gland and sometimes changes in thyroid function.
It is essential to detect warning signs of thyroid disease and treat them early. When it is not done correctly, they may have long-term consequences, including heart problems.
How do you self-check if you have thyroid problems at home?
Several tests can be used to diagnose thyroid conditions, including blood tests to measure thyroid hormone levels and imaging tests to examine the thyroid gland.
If you think you may have a thyroid problem, it’s important to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. However, there are also a few things you can do at home to self-check for thyroid problems.
Here are four aspects you can self-check to detect thyroid disease at home:
- You’re gaining or losing weight without trying: If you’re unexpectedly gaining or losing weight, it could be a sign of a thyroid problem. Weight gain is more common in hypothyroid disease, while weight loss is more common in hyperthyroidism.
- You’re feeling fatigued: If you’re feeling exhausted all the time, even after getting a good night’s sleep, it could be a sign of a thyroid problem. Fatigue is more common in hypothyroidism.
- You’re having trouble regulating your body temperature: If you’re constantly feeling too hot or too cold, it could be a sign of a thyroid problem. Feeling cold all the time is more common in hypothyroidism, while feeling hot all the time is more common in hyperthyroidism.
- You’re experiencing changes in your mood: If you’re feeling more anxious, irritable, or depressed, it could be a sign of a thyroid problem. Mood changes are more common in hyperthyroidism.
If you’re experiencing any of these signs, you must see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Blood tests can measure your thyroid’s T2 and T3 hormone levels and confirm a diagnosis.
What causes thyroid problems?
There can be many different causes of thyroid problems. However, the most common cause is an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s disease.
With Hashimoto’s disease, your body produces antibodies that attack and destroy thyroid cells. This can lead to an underactive thyroid gland which produces low thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism).
Other causes of thyroid problems include:
- Grave’s disease: This is another autoimmune disease that can lead to an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).
- Thyroiditis: This is when the thyroid gland becomes inflamed. Causes of thyroiditis include an infection in the gland or an autoimmune disease. It can also happen after giving birth.
- Thyroid nodules: These are lumps that form in the thyroid gland. They can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
- Thyroid cancer: It is not the most common type of cancer. Thyroid cancer starts in the gland and sometimes produces an excess of thyroid hormones.
Sometimes we can also have communication trouble between the control center in the brain and the thyroid. This control center is located in the pituitary gland and produces thyroid-stimulating hormone (TS).
When the thyroid gland becomes unresponsive to TSH, patients develop subclinical hypothyroidism.
Another cause has to do with nutrition. The trace mineral iodine is essential for thyroid function. We can find it in fish, seafood, eggs, and dairy.
Not receiving an adequate supply of iodine also triggers thyroid problems in the long term.
When to see a doctor
Only nutritional hypothyroidism is curable with natural solutions. You’ll return to normal as soon as you consume iodine-rich foods.
But you may need prescription medications such as levothyroxine if your problem is different. You will also need medical assistance in case of hyperthyroidism. Sometimes, your doctor may recommend removing the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy).
So, be sure to talk to your doctor if you experience many of the symptoms listed above. After performing thyroid function tests, a healthcare professional will determine if you need treatment.
Have you seen yourself reflected in our hyper and hypothyroid symptoms checklist?
People with hypothyroidism struggle significantly with weight, mood changes, and concentration. Those with hyperthyroidism are always anxious, have sleep problems, and can have severe heart issues in the future.
If you have seen these problems in yourself, sometimes the solution is eating iodine-rich foods. But if you’re already doing that and still experience these problems, talking to your doctor is essential to get a diagnosis and start your treatment.