Whether mild or severe, inadequate levels of thyroid hormone, known as hypothyroidism, can lead to important changes in the body. The full spectrum of signs and symptoms caused by hypothyroidism can be as varied and nuanced as the individuals who suffer from it. An overview of what these symptoms may look like can help you understand if you or someone you love should talk to a doctor about hypothyroidism.
The role of thyroid hormone
Hypothyroidism symptoms can be quite varied from person to person and tend to change with time. It may come on abruptly but oftentimes hypothyroidism creeps up slowly, making the symptoms less noticeable. This doesn’t make these changes any more normal, simply a bit harder to detect.
As a key stimulant of the body’s metabolic engine, most hypothyroid symptoms relate to some slowing of bodily functions. The extent to which this happens, however, can vary substantially. Whereas some people are not even aware of this slowing process, others experience severe and even dangerous changes.
Just like it’s understandable to believe that cars just start losing their pep over the years, many people assume the symptoms of hypothyroidism are actually just normal signs of aging. The good news is that not all slowing-down of the body is irreversible. Imagine finding out that a little tune-up is all your engine needs to get roaring back to full power!
Carrying the weight of hypothyroidism symptoms
Anyone seemingly weak or inexplicably run-down should consider having his or her thyroid status checked. This fatigue can also be accompanied by excessive sleepiness, joint pains and muscle aches.
Always feeling chilly or piling on extra layers? Friends may try to say that its all that fatigue that makes you feel cold when no one else seems to be. Keep in mind, however, that decreased tolerance for low temperatures is one of the key hypothyroidism symptoms.
Other physical changes that accompany hypothyroidism impact how the body functions. The constipation and irregular menstruation that often accompany this disorder can make living with hypothyroidism even more frustrating.
People living with insufficient thyroid hormone may develop some tell-tale changes in appearance. Thin, brittle hair and nails and a pale complexion are commonly visible hypothyroidism symptoms. Weight gain that seems nearly impossible to shed can also substantially change how people with hypothyroidism look to themselves and others.
The emotional toll of hypothyroidism
Many people living with hypothyroidism will experience a kind of mental fogginess or slowing-down that makes thinking seem unnecessarily difficult. Memory loss and depression are two other changes in brain function that become more common with age and are sometimes due to hypothyroidism. Although they are often caused by unknown factors, it is important to rule out hypothyroidism as an explanation for these symptoms.
Weight gain, constipation, muscle pain, ‘brain fog’ and excess fatigue is certainly enough to put the brakes on most romantic evenings. Either in combination with these symptoms or by itself, decreased libido is among the commonly described hypothyroidism symptoms. It could be life-changing to learn that a little extra thyroid hormone is actually the spice that’s been missing in a love-life!
If left untreated, the spectrum of hypothyroidism symptoms may continue to evolve. Some may not affect quality of life to any great extent but these changes are important to recognize in advance of any really life-threatening stages.
As the disease advances, people with hypothyroidism can begin to speak more slowly and in a persistently hoarse voice. They may also complain of losing the sense of smell or taste. Further changes to the appearance, such as puffy hands, face and feet are other important symptoms. Thickening of the skin and thinning of the eyebrows may also indicate advanced hypothyroidism.
It is important to recognize the symptoms and signs of hypothyroidism as untreated cases may result in a state called “myxedema,” a serious condition that can lead to coma or even death. The slow advancement of the disease, while making it tricky to recognize, can also create a potentially life-saving window of opportunity for treatment.
Tell-tale signs of hypothyroidism
It may help to understand that the physical changes that you perceive and mention to your physician are technically the symptoms of a disease. Any other findings that come up as a result of a medical examination are called the signs. The combination of clinical signs and symptoms will help establish a diagnosis of hypothyroidism.
While the collection of symptoms associated with hypothyroidism may make it seem that a diagnosis is obvious, only a blood test can make certain that inadequate thyroid hormone is truly to blame. Thyroid hormone, referred to as T3 and T4, and thyroid stimulating hormone, known as TSH, must be measured to understand just what the thyroid gland is up to.
The good news is that hypothyroidism symptoms are readily treatable. Recognizing the symptoms is the hardest part and after that, the recovery can begin. Don’t worry: treatment is painless and brings with it the pep, energy and spark that every body craves!