If you are a Dancing with the Stars fan, you are likely familiar with former co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet’s surgery to remove her thyroid cancer. Unfortunately, Brooke’s history with thyroid issues is not unique; an estimated 27 million Americans (including myself) are living with a thyroid condition. Fortunately, thyroid conditions are treatable; however, they can be tricky to diagnose since the symptoms tend to be subtle and can easily be mistaken for symptoms of other health issues. Here are some of the most common red flags to watch out for.
First things first: What is the thyroid? The thyroid gland is one of several endocrine glands in the body. This butterfly-shaped gland is in the neck just below the larynx (voice box). Your thyroid gland makes hormones that help control the function of many of your body’s organs, including your heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin. What is thyroid disease? There are a variety of diseases and conditions that cause the thyroid to malfunction. Two of the most common thyroid conditions are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Occurs when the thyroid gland is underactive and unable to produce enough hormones to meet the body’s needs. This can occur because of a birth defect, surgical removal of the thyroid gland, an autoimmune disease, goiter or nodules.
occurs when the thyroid gland is overactive and produces more hormones than the body can use. The autoimmune condition known as Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Multiple nodules, thyroiditis and excessive iodine intake can also contribute to overproduction issues. It is also possible to get cancer of the thyroid, as was the case for Brooke Burke-Charvet. Although thyroid cancer rates are on the rise, it still remains one of the most treatable types of cancer.
What are the symptoms of a thyroid condition?
Thyroid issues can be difficult to spot at first since many of the symptoms are also indicative of other health conditions. The symptoms of thyroid dysfunction can also vary in severity from person to person. If you have other medical conditions, symptoms associated with those conditions may be more severe due to underlying thyroid issues. The cause of thyroid disease, severity of thyroid hormone deficiency and the length of time the body has been deprived of the correct levels of hormones all affect symptom severity. Here are some signs to look for that might indicate a thyroid condition that may lead to a diagnosis:
- Feeling run down, exhausted, drowsy and/or fatigued, even with proper rest
- Feelings of depression or lack of interest in things previously enjoyed
- Increased and/or heavier menstrual periods, PMS, fertility/miscarriage issues
- Constipation, even with adequate fiber intake
- Forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, difficulty learning or feeling like you are in a ”fog”
- Unexplained weight gain beyond a few pounds, increased fluid retention and/or puffy face
- Dry and/or itchy skin, even with regular moisturizer use.
- Dry, brittle nails and hair (with or without thinning)
- Hoarse voice and/or difficulty swallowing
- Intolerance to cold, especially in extremities such as fingers and toes
- Muscle cramps
If you have been experiencing many of the above symptoms, speak with your doctor about screening your thyroid hormone levels to rule out a possible condition. Make sure to ask for a Full Thyroid Panel. And, don’t put off getting tested just because your symptoms seem like ”normal” everyday ailments (fatigue, forgetfulness, etc.). With the proper care, it’s completely possible to lift the fog and feel like yourself again. Many suffer with thyroid conditions and don’t know it (do you know anyone with these symptoms?) What symptoms did you experience that made you seek help?