Could You Have a Thyroid Problem? Here Are 10 Familiar Symptoms

 Could you have a problem with your thyroid, the master gland of metabolism? Here are 10 familiar signs and symptoms that your thyroid may be malfunctioning. 

You're Exhausted and Having Sleep Problems

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Are you feeling exhausted when you wake up, even after 8 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, in Is Your Thyroid Making You Exhausted?

Your Weight is Changing

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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 are 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.

You're Depressed, Anxious, or Having Panic Attacks

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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

Learn more about anxiety and depression in thyroid patients.

You Have Neck Neck Discomfort, Enlargement, Hoarseness, or Goiter

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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, and 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."

You're Losing Hair, or Having Changes to Hair and Skin

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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.  

You're Constipated or Having Bowel Problems

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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.

You Have Menstrual Irregularities and/or Fertility Problems

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Menstrual changes are common in thyroid patients.

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

If you are hyperthyroid, you may experience shorter, lighter or infrequent periods. In some cases, periods stop entirely. 

If you have undiagnosed or an improperly treated thyroid conditions, hypothyroidism in particular, you are also at higher risk of infertility, failed assisted reproduction treatments, and recurrent miscarriage.

You Have Muscle and Joint Pains, Carpal Tunnel, or Tendonitis

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

When you're hypothyroid, you 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 your 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.

If you are hyperthyroid, you 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.

You Have High Cholesterol That Is Unresponsive to Cholesterol Medications

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If you have high cholesterol levels, especially when they are not responsive to diet, exercise or cholesterol-lowering medications such as statin drugs, you may have undiagnosed hypothyroidism.

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

For more information, read Combatting High Cholesterol Due to Hypothyroidism

You Have Eye Problems and Changes

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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.

A Word from Verywell

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

Read Next: Risks, Signs and Symptoms of Thyroid Conditions.

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View Article Sources
  • Bahn, R., Burch, H, Cooper, D, et al. Hyperthyroidism and Other Causes of Thyrotoxicosis: Management Guidelines of the American Thyroid Association and American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Endocrine Practice. Vol 17 No. 3 May/June 2011.
  • Braverman, L, Cooper D. Werner & Ingbar's The Thyroid, 10th Edition. WLL/Wolters Kluwer; 2012.
  • Garber, J, Cobin, R, Gharib, H, et. al. "Clinical Practice Guidelines for Hypothyroidism in Adults: Cosponsored by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Thyroid Association." Endocrine Practice. Vol 18 No. 6 November/December 2012.