The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, produces hormones essential for metabolism and brain activity. Symptoms of a thyroid problem are often vague, but if you notice any of the following signs persisting, or have more than one, Snowdonia Medical Centre recommend seeing a doctor to request a simple blood test to gauge your hormone levels.
1. Sleep Changes
If you’ve always been a good sleeper but suddenly can’t snooze through the night, it could signal a thyroid problem. An overactive thyroid pumps out certain hormones (triiodothyronine, known as T3, and thyroxine, known as T4) in excess, which can overstimulate the central nervous system and lead to insomnia. On the flip side, if you still feel still tired after a full night’s sleep, or the need to sleep more than usual, you might have an under-active thyroid, in which your body doesn’t produce enough hormones.
2. Out-of-nowhere anxiety
If you’ve never struggled with anxiety but start to feel consistently anxious or unsettled, your thyroid might be hyperactive. Too many thyroid hormones often cause patients to feel jittery or anxious unrelated to anything specific. There’s more brain stimulation so it excites you to the point where you don’t feel good about it.
3. Changes in bowel habits
Frequent constipation could be a sign of an under-active thyroid. Thyroid hormones also play a role in keeping your digestive track running. sIf you produce too little, things get backed up. An overactive thyroid can create the opposite effect. You’ll experience a regular bowel movement (not diarrhoea), but the need to go more frequently, because everything is sped up.
4. Thinning hair
Thinning hair, particularly on your eyebrows, is a common sign of thyroid disease. An underactive or overactive thyroid throws off your hair growth cycle. Usually, most of your hair grows while a small portion rests. When thyroid hormones are imbalanced, too much hair rests at one time, which means hair looks thinner.
5. Sweating at random times
Excessive sweating when you’re not exerting yourself is a common sign of a hyperactive thyroid. The thyroid regulates the body’s energy production. Higher than normal hormone levels mean your metabolism is revved up, which causes people to feel overly warm.
6. Clothes that fit tighter than usual
If your jeans feel snug but you swear you haven’t changed your eating or exercise habits, an under-active thyroid might be to blame. Lack of hormones decreases metabolism and calorie burning, so you may see gradual but unexplained weight gain.
Feeling ravenous but not gaining weight
On the other hand, if you’re suddenly able to squeeze into smaller-size clothes that haven’t fit in years, without a major change to your diet or workout regimen, you may have an overactive thyroid, which causes an increase in metabolism. People often report that their appetite is up and they’re eating a lot, but are losing weight instead of gaining.
7. Brain fog
When your thyroid isn’t working right, neither is your brain. With an under-active thyroid, some people report feeling a “brain fog”. Others report experiencing subtle memory loss (such as that “it’s on the tip of my tongue!” feeling), or overall mental fatigue. An overactive thyroid can make it difficult to concentrate.
8. Too much energy (like you've guzzled 5 cups of coffee)
An overload of thyroid hormones speeds up your body processes. People say they feel like they had too much caffeine or have heart palpitations even when they’re relaxed.
9. Craving an afternoon nap every day
Daytime tiredness or the urge to nap can be signs of an under-active thyroid. The body needs these thyroid hormones to produce energy.
10. Out-of-wack periods
If your periods become heavier, longer, or occur closer together, your thyroid might not be producing enough hormones. But if your periods get lighter or occur further apart, an overactive thyroid might be producing too many hormones.
11. Infertility or miscarriage
Women who have difficulty conceiving with no family history of infertility, or who miscarry in the early stages of pregnancy, should get a thyroid screening. Low hormone levels affect ovulation and predispose you to infertility or miscarriage. If you have thyroid disease, hormone supplementation can be very beneficial while trying to conceive and during pregnancy.
12. Developmental delays in children
Thyroid problems often manifest even more silently in children, because kids won’t always be able to express their symptoms. If you notice that they are growing significantly slower than their peers, complaining about muscles soreness, or if teachers say they’re jumpy and unfocused, that could be a sign that they have low hormone levels, which can affect their development.
13. How to treat a thyroid problem
Overactive and under-active thyroid problems are both easily treated. If your thyroid is overactive: Doctors typically prescribe anti-thyroid medication that slows down the production and release of T4 and T3 hormones. Once hormone levels are balanced, patients can eventually stop taking the medicine. However, if hyperthyroidism is ignored and left untreated, sometimes surgery to remove some or all of the gland is required. If your thyroid is under-active: This typically requires lifelong treatment with a synthetic thyroid hormone called levothyroxine. The oral medication restores hormone levels and helps reverse symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, and constipation.