The thyroid gland performs several essential life functions in the body and maintains important biochemical functions such as metabolism, equilibrium, body temperature, and calcium balance. Its effect extends to influencing factors such as mental health, skin & hair health, and even eyesight. Nearly no part of the body is left unaffected by the thyroid gland’s hormones and their functions. Needless to say, an imbalance in the levels of these hormones has a far-reaching impact on the overall functioning of the body.
However, there are several unique signs, many of which appear early on in the states of imbalance that can allow you to get a headstart in detecting and managing these thyroid issues. So what are early warning signs of thyroid problems? We answer this critical question in this article to help you remain aware of how to maintain your thyroid health. We also discuss up to 20 sneaky signs of a thyroid problem to help you watch out for these signs and visit a doctor in time to get the help you need.
Why Is the Thyroid Gland Important?
- It’s important to know why the thyroid gland is integral to the body’s functioning before we understand the early warning signs of thyroid problems.
- The thyroid gland controls and directs some of the most essential functions of the human body. One of these functions is to maintain the body’s basal metabolic rate.
- The gland produces three major hormones called triiodothyronine (T3), thyroxine (T4), and thyrocalcitonin. While the first two regulate essential body functions, the third hormone strikes a balance with the parathyroid hormone to maintain calcium balance between the bones and the blood.
- The gland also regulates blood pressure, growth and development, neural & brain development, and the force of the heartbeat. Fluctuations in the thyroid hormone levels can also impact oxygen consumption by the body, causing fatigue in individuals troubled by imbalances.
- If you’re asking questions like ‘Can thyroid cause high blood pressure?’ or ‘Can thyroid problems affect your breathing?’, it’s because the gland does indeed have effects on these important aspects of the body.
What Are Thyroid Imbalances & How Are They Caused?
- Thyroid malfunctions are often the result of autoimmune diseases, developmental troubles, injuries, nutritional deficiencies, or because of cancer.
- The imbalances of the thyroid hormones are broadly categorized under two main ailments - hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
- While the former refers to a decreased amount of thyroid hormone secretion, the latter indicates an excess of thyroid hormones in circulation.
- So what are early warning signs of thyroid problems like hypo and hyperthyroidism? It is important to understand that the initial signs of these imbalances are often connected to the cause and main symptoms of these illnesses.
- Hypothyroidism is most commonly caused due to a deficiency of dietary iodine or a complex autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
- A reduction in the secretion of thyroid hormones may also occur due to damage to the gland caused by radiation therapy, or as a side effect of certain medications.
- Inflammatory conditions affecting the thyroid gland can also contribute to imbalances causing impaired levels of its hormones.
- On the other hand, hyperthyroidism too can be caused by the lack of dietary Iodine and an autoimmune condition called Grave’s disease.
- Cancers of the thyroid gland and multinodular goiter are also significant causes of increased thyroid hormone secretion, resulting in hyperthyroidism.
- Tumors affecting the pituitary gland - a gland that controls the levels of thyroid hormone secreted by the thyroid gland, can also lead to hyperthyroidism and other imbalances in the functioning of the gland.
20 Sneaky Signs of a Thyroid Problem
Thyroid issues can often start as silent, barely noticeable changes in the body. Watching out for some of these sneaky, yet sudden changes can go a long way in identifying the problem early and managing it effectively. Here are 20 sneaky signs of a thyroid problem you should watch out for:
1. Unexplained Fatigue & Exhaustion
- Most thyroid patients report that they encounter extreme tiredness and fatigue long before they get diagnosed with a thyroid problem.
- While hypothyroidism causes fatigue due to the reduced metabolic rate, weight gain, and reduced oxygen consumption, hyperthyroidism causes a sped-up metabolic rate, leading to constant overworking of the body’s internal systems. This too can lead to fatigue.
- Low heart rates are also linked to increased fatigue.
2. Loss of equilibrium
- Can thyroid issues cause dizziness? Since thyroid imbalances affect both oxygen consumption and equilibrium, people suffering from thyroid issues frequently experience dizziness and a loss of equilibrium.
- Palpitations and shortness of breath also add to the issue.
3. Digestive Issues
- Individuals suffering from hypothyroidism might face challenges with constipation frequently.
- On the other hand, hyperthyroidism results in frequent bouts of diarrhea.
- It might be wise to get checked if you’ve had consistent digestive issues in the recent past.
4. Weight Fluctuations
- Though sudden reductions in weight despite no change in activity levels might seem like a welcome surprise, they might hint at a potential thyroid imbalance. Hyperthyroidism can cause weight loss due to increased metabolism.
- Similarly, a sudden increase in weight can also indicate a thyroid imbalance since hypothyroidism often causes an increase in weight due to a reduction in the basal metabolic rate.
- If you’re thinking about what are early warning signs of thyroid problems, weight fluctuations certainly rank high on the list.
5. Skin Issues & Breakouts
- Breakouts and sudden bouts of acne can hint at a potential hormonal imbalance, which can be triggered by a malfunctioning thyroid gland.
- Hyperthyroidism causes excessively oily skin leading to increased chances of pimples and acne.
- Conversely, hypothyroidism causes dry and patchy skin, which in turn makes the skin more vulnerable to breakouts and acne.
6. Cold Extremities
- Cold hands and feet thyroid issues are some of the most commonly reported symptoms in individuals that go on to get diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
- An underactive thyroid gland hampers the metabolic rate and temperature control, causing the extremities to become cold.
- Similarly, a cold nose thyroid issue is also due to an underactive thyroid gland.
7. Temperature Fluctuations
- Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism cause an increase in sensitivity to external temperatures. This occurs due to the metabolic fluctuations caused by an imbalanced thyroid.
- An increased susceptibility to heat despite objectively cold temperatures indicates hyperthyroidism, while an increased susceptibility to cold despite objectively warm temperatures hints at hypothyroidism.
8. Mood Fluctuations
- Unstable moods and anxiety are important early signs of thyroid malfunction.
- If you’ve encountered unpredictable, irritable, and anxious moods often without an underlying cause, your thyroid might be acting up.
- Prolonged untreated thyroid issues can also lead to depression.
9. Swelling/Growths on the Neck
- An inflamed or swollen neck can often indicate either an inflammatory condition or an Iodine deficiency affecting the thyroid gland.
- Conditions such as multinodular goiter and cancer of the thyroid gland can also cause neck swelling or growths to appear.
- Visit the physician immediately if you notice any swelling in the neck or can feel any growths in the region of the thyroid gland.
10. Wrinkled fingertips
- Wrinkled fingertips thyroid issues are often associated with the reduced body temperature observed in cases of an underactive thyroid gland.
- Blood vessels in the hands often constrict and contract to avoid losing heat to the surroundings, causing a wrinkled appearance.
11. Breathing Issues
- Can thyroid problems affect your breathing? They most certainly can, due to the change in oxygen consumption and change in the heart rate & strength of each beat.
- This also affects the energy levels of the individual.
12. Blood Pressure Fluctuations
- The thyroid hormones are closely linked to the cardiovascular system. Alongside altering the strength of the heartbeat and the heart rate, an imbalance can also cause an increase in blood pressure.
- So if you’ve been thinking ‘Can thyroid cause high blood pressure?’, it can. Both hyper and hypothyroidism cause high blood pressure due to the impact on the muscles in the arteries.
13. Dry Mouth
- An important early sign of thyroid issues is feeling excessive thirst.
- People with both hypo or hyperthyroidism can experience a dry mouth which can lead to increased thirst and a salty taste in the mouth connected to the underlying thyroid issue.
14. Chest Discomfort
- So, can the thyroid cause chest pain? Thyroid issues hamper cardiac function by raising the heart rate in hyperthyroidism and reducing it in hypothyroidism, both of which can cause chest pain in both the resting state or due to exertion.
- Thyroid-related chest pain and tightness are some of the most important symptoms when discussing the early warning signs of thyroid problems.
15. Constant Aches & Pains
- Malfunctioning thyroid glands cause muscle tenderness and weakness.
- Loss of muscle due to elevated metabolic rate is another cause of the increased incidence of muscle pain due to hyperthyroidism.
16. Hair Loss
- Along with an impact on the skin, if you’re still wondering what are early warning signs of thyroid problems, the imbalance’s impact on hair is just as drastic.
- Both reduced and increased thyroid levels cause hair loss in the affected individual.
17. Eye problems
- Vision and eye-related problems are some of the most commonly experienced early signs by people that get diagnosed with thyroid issues.
- Bulging eyes, redness, and dry eyes are all important signs of thyroid problems.
- Some people also experience double vision due to thyroid issues.
18. Memory Issues
- If you’ve been finding it more difficult to remember details out of the blue, maybe it’s time to get a thyroid test.
- Both hyper and hypothyroidism cause memory problems.
19. Trouble Falling Asleep
- Another important early warning sign of thyroid problems entails the imbalanced hormones’ impact on the sleep cycle.
- Persistent insomnia calls for a thyroid panel and a physician’s appointment.
20. Menstrual Inconsistencies & Loss of Libido
- Thyroid problems can throw off the menstrual cycle in women and cause a drastic reduction in sex drive.
- If you’ve consistently experienced an irregular or missed period, getting your thyroid levels checked might be a wise choice.
Now that you know what are early warning signs of thyroid problems, and the 20 sneaky signs you should watch out for, it’s important to remain watchful of thyroid levels. Be sure to get in touch with your physician if you notice any of the above-mentioned signs for periods longer than a month.