It is known that at least 20 Americans are troubled by some kind of thyroid disorder, which makes that medical condition even more prevalent than heart disease or diabetes. However, it’s also known that as many as 60% of all thyroid cases are not detected or treated, simply because the symptoms of a thyroid problem are often misunderstood as markers of some other issue such as allergies, colds, or advancing age.
This is unfortunate, because thyroid issues which go undiagnosed can often worsen into more severe health issues, and at that time it’s much harder to bring the disorder under control than it would have been at an earlier stage. In this discussion, we’ll take a look at some of the most prominent signs that there may be a problem with your thyroid.
What is the Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid gland is an organ which is situated at the base of your neck, and has the shape of a butterfly with its wings spread. The gland releases hormones that control your body’s metabolism, which is the manner in which energy is used. These hormones regulate many of the most important processes of your body, including body temperature, muscle strength, cholesterol levels, menstrual cycles, heart rate, breathing, and the central and peripheral nervous systems.
The thyroid gland is really very small, being only about two inches in length, and it’s situated in the forward part of the throat, just below a mass of thyroid cartilage which is generally referred to as the Adam’s Apple. The two sides of the thyroid gland are referred to as lobes, and these are located on both sides of your windpipe, connected by a thin tissue strip known as the isthmus. Some people are actually born without this isthmus, leaving the two thyroid lobes separated.
How the Thyroid Gland Works
As part of the overall endocrine system, the thyroid gland is just one of those glands which manufactures hormones for release into the bloodstream, where the hormones eventually reach all the cells of the body. In order to produce the hormones that it does, the thyroid extracts iodine from many of the foods you eat, so it can produce the hormones which are known in their short form as T3 and T4. If the levels of these two hormones are either too high or too low, there are two other glands, the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, which signal the brain to correct the imbalance.
Signs That you may Have a Thyroid Problem
Since the impact of the thyroid gland and the hormones which it produces can be so pervasive throughout the body, it’s important that warning signs of a thyroid problem are detected as early as possible so they can be treated. Here are some of the most prominent signs that you may have a thyroid issue:
- Muscular pain – When you feel intermittent numbness or tightening in the legs, feet, hands, or arms, it may be a sign of a thyroid problem. A deficiency of one of the thyroid hormones can disrupt signals between your brain and the rest of the body.
- Sudden weight gain – Although there are a number of factors involved in weight gain, when you put on a lot of pounds in a very short time frame, this could indicate a thyroid problem.
- Deep sadness or depression – When the thyroid is overactive or underactive, it can trigger mood swings in an individual, and restlessness or anxiety can be another of the symptoms you experience.
- Changes in appetite – If you notice that foods or beverages suddenly taste different to you, it can be a sign that you have an underactive thyroid, which can interfere with your sense of smell and/or taste.
- Hair loss and dry skin – When your skin or scalp are itchy and dry much of the time, it can indicate an overactive thyroid. When your hair begins falling out, that can be a sign of an underactive thyroid, because the growth cycle of your hair is disrupted by lack of a needed hormone.
- High blood pressure – When you have high blood pressure that seemingly can’t be brought under control, even with a healthy diet and regular exercise, the thyroid gland could be the culprit. If the thyroid gland is underactive, it can cause high levels of bad cholesterol, and that in turn, triggers various heart issues.
- Constipation – When there is a disruption to the production of hormones in the thyroid, it can cause sluggishness in the digestive system, and that in turn, can bog down the normal elimination processes of the body.
- Excessive sleeping – When the thyroid is underactive, it can cause a number of body functions and processes to slow down dramatically, making you feel tired and listless even in the daytime.
- Throat or neck discomfort – It could be a sign of a thyroid disorder if you feel a lump in your throat, or if you experience a change in the sound of your voice. This may be detectable by checking for any swelling in the area around your neck
- Hot and cold flashes – Any kind of disruption to the thyroid has the potential of interfering with the body’s ability to regulate temperature, and when this happens you might feel either excessively cold or excessively warm.