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Are you suffering from excessive fatigue? Are you gaining weight despite taking a regular diet? Or are there any other problems which make you tensed about your thyroid gland function? Do you think you are being hypothyroid? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you need to read this article carefully. In this article, we will try to discuss the symptoms of hypothyroidism. It will help you to assess your symptoms if any. And you will be able to discuss with your doctor efficiently. Let’s start.
What is Hypothyroidism?
As you assume from the term ‘hypo’, it means reduced thyroid function. You probably know about the thyroid gland which is located in front of the neck, shaped like a butterfly. It secretes mainly two hormones, Thyroxine and Tri-iodothyronine, which are known as thyroid hormone. These are very crucial hormones of our body that regulate different metabolic processes. Almost all cells of the body require thyroid hormones to grow, proliferate and function properly.
If the gland can’t produce thyroid hormones due to any cause, you will suffer from a deficiency of thyroid hormones. And this condition is termed ‘Hypothyroidism’.
What are the symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
Though thyroid hormones are essential for body metabolism, the symptoms of thyroid insufficiency do nor appear instantly. It may take weeks to months before you develop symptoms. Let discuss the commonest symptoms in brief.
- Unexpected weight gain:
As we have talked before, getting obese is a common symptom of thyroid hormone deficiency. In hypothyroidism, the metabolic activity of the body decreases. That means your body will produce less energy and accumulate fat. You are not probably taking more foods, but the nutrients will not be used up. Hence, it will be converted into fat and will be stored in the body. So, if you gain weight unexpectedly, think about your thyroid gland.
- Excessive fatigue or somnolence:
It is a very common and early feature of hypothyroidism. You will feel tired or sleepy without much physical exercise. As the thyroid hormone regulates the energy-yielding metabolic processes of your body, you will get less energy in thyroid deficiency. So, you will feel weaker and get tired with little activity. If you are having these problems, and there is no other known explanation, go to your doctor for evaluation.
- Cold intolerance:
Are you getting difficulty to live or stay in a mild cold environment? Your friends are feeling hot but you are trying to switch off the air cooler!! Is it happening too often recently? It may be a sign of hypothyroidism. Thyroid hormones stimulate fat-burning pathways to produce heat. In a lack of thyroid hormones, there will be reduced basal metabolism and reduced heat production. So you will get less heat to maintain body temperature in a cold environment.
- Voice change or hoarseness:
Your friend may talk about your voice. It may be hoarse, low-pitched and rough. It occurs because the vocal cord or muscles may be fatigue in hypothyroidism like other tissues of the body. Myxedema is a form of hypothyroidism which is often termed as ‘Telephone disease’. Because it can be diagnosed over the telephone from voice change.
- Chronic constipation:
Your intestine has a peristaltic movement that propels the content towards the anus. In hypothyroidism, the peristaltic activity is reduced and you may suffer from constipation.
- Menstrual problems:
Thyroid hormones work synergistically with other hormones to regulate the menstrual cycle. In impaired thyroid function, the regulatory cycle is broken. Your menstruation may be usually delayed or irregular. The bleeding may be excessive in amount or duration. If you develop such a problem without proper explanation, visit your doctor.
- Dry skin and itching:
The cells of our skin have a rapid turnover. That means the cells proliferate rapidly and old or dead cells continue to shed off. Like other cells of the body, this proliferation is slowed down in hypothyroidism. As a result, the old and dead cells accumulate over skin and it may be dry, coarse and rough. You may also suffer from itching due to this dryness. If left untreated, it will worsen day by day.
- Loss of hair:
The growth of your hair depends on the stem cells located in the hair follicle. In the absence of thyroid hormone, the proliferation and regeneration of these cells are halted. As a result, you may lose hair or it may be coarser. However, hair loss is reversible with treatment.
- Pain in muscle and body:
During hypothyroid status, fat breakdown and energy production is reduced. On the contrary, protein breakdown is increased. As body muscle tissues are actually proteins, you may suffer from muscle cramps, pain, and weakness.
A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland. If you notice a swelling in front of the neck, which moves with swallowing, it is probably the enlarged thyroid. During thyroid hormone deficiency, the gland tries to compensate for the hormone level by producing more. Thus it becomes hypertrophied. However, it depends upon the cause and not found in all cases. And the enlargement may be due to other problems( e.g. tumor), too.
- Depression and mental symptoms:
This is another important symptom found in hypothyroid patients. You may feel depressed or suffer from mental fogginess. It may be difficult for you to concentrate on study or job. Many patients are even found to be forgetful. The exact mechanism is unclear, but probably the overall weakness leads to psychological symptoms.
So, these are common symptoms of hypothyroidism. You may also suffer from hypertension, reduced heart rate, leg swelling, puffy face, etc. And the symptoms may be different in case of your loving children. We will discuss those in another article.
So, have you found any of these symptoms in you? Do you think you are hypothyroid? Don’t hesitate to visit the nearest doctor. There are effective treatments available. You may also need to take some thyroid supplements to promote the health of your thyroid gland.
That’s all for now. It will be a great pleasure for us if this article helps you to any extent. Thanks for reading with patience. Have a nice day.
- Davidson’s principles and practice of medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.
- Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th edition.
Dr. Shamim Reza is a licensed physician and freelance medical writer. After completing MBBS and postgraduate training in Internal Medicine, he is practicing Medicine from 2015. He is now working as a Medical Officer under the Ministry of Health, Bangladesh.
He believes that being a doctor doesn’t mean being confined to a clinic. He wants to share his knowledge and expertise with the entire world. For that reason, he has written a lot of medical articles for various websites. Being a doctor he loves to write on different medical conditions and treatments.