Have you recently experienced extreme fatigue, hair loss, or menstrual irregularities? Or have you been jittery, anxious, sweaty, and even hungrier?
While these are some common symptoms that people of all ages may experience, the symptoms are likely to become much more noticeable if your thyroid gland is acting up. The thyroid gland is an important hormone regulator, but it is extremely common for it to flare up, particularly in women. For a condition that affects 1 in every 8 women worldwide, it’s also been reported that up to 60% of women who do have thyroid problems are completely unaware of the symptoms.
What role does the thyroid play?
Controlling and regulating proper thyroid function, like other organs of the body, is critical. The thyroid organ, a butterfly-shaped organ located in front of our neck, is responsible for the production of important hormones such as triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which regulate vital functions such as weight loss, metabolism, energy, skin and hair health, and even body temperature.
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is another important hormone that tells the thyroid to produce more T3 and T4 levels. As a result, any flare-up or concerning elevation or decrease in these important hormones can result in an overactive or underactive function, leading to a thyroid disorder.
When hormonal levels fluctuate abruptly, a variety of symptoms may appear, which can be severe in women and affect other vital functions as well. What should also be remembered is that the thyroid is such a powerful organ that it can affect every other organ in the body, and it can be increasingly difficult to distinguish symptoms, especially when you are unaware. As a result, women should be on the lookout for warning signs and symptoms and take the necessary precautions. Some of the symptoms may also require further testing for TSH, T3, and T4 levels, and know if what you may be suffering from is hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Having said that, we list some common symptoms to be particularly careful of:
Unexplained weight loss or gain
Thyroid levels have a huge impact on your overall metabolism and keep your weight in check as well. While there are a lot of reasons for weight loss or gain, if you have been recording abrupt or unexplained changes in your weight, chances are that you may first need to get your thyroid checked. While low levels of thyroid hormones could lead to weight gain, an overactive thyroid could land in overdrive and make you lose weight unexpectedly. Weight-loss related to hypothyroidism is one of the most common changes observed in women.
Darkening of skin folds around the neck
Darkening of the skin around your neck is a common early symptom of a thyroid disorder that may go unnoticed. According to research, the darkening of skin folds around the neck is usually caused by hormonal flare-ups, and is more common when the thyroid is acting up. This is one sign that both men and women are advised to be on the lookout for and, if necessary, get tested for.
Aside from that, the thyroid organ is in charge of maintaining healthy skin and hair. A disruption in T3 and T4 levels may also cause dry skin, itchy scalp, oily skin, or brittle nails.
Fatigue and weakness
Losing energy or feeling tired are frequently misinterpreted as signs of aging and everyday stress. While this is not always the case, irregular and chronic fatigue and feelings of exhaustion may be the result of an underlying thyroid problem. Because our thyroid gland has a significant impact on metabolic function, an underactive thyroid can cause a metabolic slowdown, making you tired and lethargic on a regular basis. Similarly, those with an overactive gland may experience a flare-up in metabolic function, resulting in energy loss. Thyroid fatigue and weakness can result in heart palpitations, muscle weakness, and tremors.
Difficulty sleeping well
Sleeping difficulties are another sign that you may have an underlying thyroid problem. Thyroid dysfunction can have a negative impact on your sleep and cause you to toss and turn in bed. It is also possible that it will cause daytime sleepiness. While an overactive, high-functioning thyroid can affect your mood, nervous system, tiredness, and muscle weakness, the constant feelings can make it difficult to sleep. Other symptoms that may be present include night sweats and frequent urination, both of which can interfere with sleep.
Underactive thyroid has also been associated with poor quality sleep, delayed or prolonged sleep onset and overall shorter sleep duration.
Anxiety, nervousness, and brain fog
Any symptoms of weakening or worsening mental health should never be taken lightly. While a lot of health conditions are relatively linked to mood fluctuations and stress, women suffering from thyroid are said to be at a higher risk of experiencing anxiety issues, nervousness, tremors, irritability, intense mood swings as well as brain fog, a symptom which has drawn more attention since COVID-19. Further symptoms of hypothyroidism could include memory loss, decreased concentration levels, and render energy loss in performing day-to-day activities and routines. What can also happen if thyroid diagnosis or treatment is delayed is more anxiety issues.
Menstrual irregularities and changes
In women, any type of menstrual changes or irregularities is commonly interpreted as a sign of PCOS or infertility issues. However, this cannot always be the case. Because the thyroid directly controls your reproductive system, a disruption in thyroid levels can also cause a variety of periodic changes and have an impact on regular menstrual flow. While thyroid hormone levels that are too low or too high can cause periods to be light, heavy, or scanty, it can also cause periods to stop for an extended period of time or bring menopause early in older women (over the age of 35). As a result, any changes should be implemented as soon as possible.