Common Signs of a Thyroid Condition


Could you have a thyroid problem? Here are 10 common and all-too-familiar signs and symptoms that may point to an undiagnosed thyroid condition.

1. Fatigue, Exhaustion, and Sleep Problems

Are you feeling exhausted when you wake up, even after eight or 10 hours of sleep the night before? Do you need a nap in the afternoon to get through dinner? Do you take long naps or have marathon sleep sessions on the weekend, just to recuperate enough to tackle your work week? These are common signs of an undiagnosed or insufficiently treated thyroid problems, especially hypothyroidism—an underactive thyroid.

Do you have a difficult time falling asleep, or staying asleep at night? When you go to bed, do you find it difficult to sleep, due to a racing heart or a feeling of anxiety? Are you experiencing insomnia? These can be common signs and symptoms of undiagnosed or insufficiently treated hyperthyroidism—an overactive thyroid.
Learn more about the link between fatigue, sleep problems, and thyroid issues.

2. Unexpected Weight Changes Not Connected to Diet and Exercise

Unexplained weight changes can be signs of both hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.

Are you on a low-fat, low-calorie diet with a rigorous exercise program, but you're failing to lose weight. Or maybe you're even gaining weight? Or, have you joined a diet program or support group, such as Weight Watchers, and you are the only one who isn't losing any weight? If eating well and exercise are not budging the scale, you have a common symptom of undiagnosed or poorly treated hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid.

On the opposite end, are you losing weight while eating the same amount of food as usual? Has your appetite increased substantially, but you're not gaining weight, or even losing weight? Unexplained weight loss, or higher caloric intake without weight gain are common symptoms of undiagnosed or undertreated hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid.

Note, however, that some of you may have an opposite response. You could be hypothyroid patients and lose weight, can't gain weight, or are underweight. Or, you may be hyperthyroid patients and find that you can't lose weight, even with a healthy diet and exercise.

Learn more about the connection between thyroid problems and weight issues.

3. Depression, Anxiety, and Panic Attacks

Are you experiencing an unexplained depression, ongoing, or periodic anxiety—or even the onset of panic attacks or a panic disorder? These can be symptoms of thyroid disease.

Hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid, is most typically associated with depression.

Depression that does not respond to antidepressants may also be a sign of undiagnosed or poorly treated hypothyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid, is more commonly associated with anxiety, panic disorder, and panic attacks

4. Neck Discomfort, Enlargement, Hoarseness, Goiter

Your thyroid is located in your neck. In some cases, goiter (an enlarged thyroid) or nodules can cause a variety of neck and throat-related symptoms. These include:

  • a feeling of swelling or fullness in the neck
  • visibly enlarged neck
  • discomfort with turtlenecks or neckties
  • difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • tenderness in the neck
  • a hoarse, raspy voice

These symptoms can be associated with hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, autoimmune thyroid disease, nodules, goiter, thyroid cancer, and should be evaluated.

You can learn how to do an easy self-check at home to help find out if your thyroid may be enlarged in this overview of the simple "Thyroid Neck Check."

5. Hair Loss, Hair Changes, and Skin Changes

Hair and skin are particularly vulnerable to thyroid imbalances. In particular, hair loss is frequently associated with thyroid problems.

With hypothyroidism, your hair may become brittle, coarse and dry, break easily, and fall out more easily or heavily. In hypothyroidism, there is also a unique and very specific symptom: The loss of hair in the outer edge of the eyebrow. Your skin can become thick, dry, and scaly, especially on heels, knees, and elbows.

With hyperthyroidism, severe hair loss can also occur. Your hair may also become fine and thin. Your skin may become fragile, easily irritated, or unusually smooth.

There are also two unusual rashes associated with hyperthyroidism and Graves' disease. Pretibial myxedema—also known as thyroid dermopathy—can appear on the skin of the shins. And a bumpy rash known as milaria can appear on the face.

6. Constipation, Bowel Problems, Diarrhea, and Irritable Bowel

A variety of digestive issues can be symptoms of an undiagnosed or undertreated thyroid condition.

Severe or long-term constipation, and constipation that does not respond to treatments and remedies, is commonly associated with hypothyroidism.

Diarrhea, loose stools, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are frequently associated with hyperthyroidism.

7. Menstrual Irregularities and Fertility Problems

Menstrual changes are common in thyroid patients.

Heavier, more frequent, and more painful periods are frequently associated with hypothyroidism.

Women with hyperthyroidism often experience shorter, lighter or infrequent periods. In some cases, periods stop entirely.

Women with undiagnosed or improperly treated thyroid conditions—hypothyroidism in particular—are also at higher risk of infertility, failed assisted reproduction treatments, and recurrent miscarriage.

8. Muscle and Joint Pains, Carpal Tunnel, Tendonitis, and Plantar Fasciitis

Pain is a common but often overlooked symptom of underlying thyroid issues.

People with hypothyroidism may experience aches and pains in muscles and joints, especially the arms and legs. Fibromyalgia-like pain is also common for people with an underactive thyroid.

There is also a greater risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome in the arms/hands, which can cause weakness and pain in the forearms, wrists, hands, and fingers. A similar condition, tarsal tunnel, is also a risk, causing weakness and pain in the shins, ankles, feet and toes. Similarly, a painful foot condition known as plantar fasciitis in the feet.

People who are hyperthyroidism may have pain or unusual weakness in the upper arms, and calves.

For more information about pain associated with various thyroid conditions, read Muscle and Joint Pain With Thyroid Disease.

9. High Cholesterol, Unresponsive to Cholesterol Medications

High cholesterol levels, especially when they are not responsive to diet, exercise or cholesterol-lowering medications such as statin drugs, can be a sign of undiagnosed hypothyroidism.

Unusually low cholesterol levels that do not correlate with diet, weight, and exercise may be a sign of hyperthyroidism.

10. Eye Problems and Changes

A number of eye-related symptoms and changes are common in hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and Graves’ disease, but can also be due to a related condition, known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy or thyroid eye disease.These include:

  • Your eyes feel gritty and dry.
  • Your vision is blurry.
  • Your eyes are red, dry, swollen, puffy, or watery.
  • Your eyes are sensitive to light.
  • You are having double vision.
  • Your eyeballs appear to be bulging (proptosis); your eyes aren’t completely covered when your eyelids are closed.
  • You have “lid lag," when your upper eyelid doesn't smoothly follow downward movements of the eyes when you look down.

What Are Your Next Steps?

If you have any of these common symptoms, your next step is to consult a healthcare practitioner for a complete thyroid evaluation.

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