An estimated 20 million people in the United States have some form of thyroid condition—according to leading experts, as much as 60% of those cases are undiagnosed and especially dangerous.
Thyroid issues come in many different forms. Some conditions, such as a small goiter (enlarged thyroid gland) are relatively harmless and do not generally require treatment. Others can profoundly impact your life. Thyroid cancer, for example, often proves fatal.
Dr. Dorian Quinn LAc, PScD is the Clinic Director of the Simple Wellness Clinic, and a holistic health care professional with more than three decades of experience. He states that the sooner you can catch and treat a thyroid issue the better. If you know the signs and what to look for, you’ll be better equipped to spot thyroid-related conditions before any major damage has occurred.
Here are 10 warning signs as listed by Dr. Dorian Quinn that may be telling you it’s time to consult a medical professional and get your thyroid checked. Generally speaking, a simple blood test can help your doctor diagnose the problem and outline a treatment plan.
Visible or notable swelling in the neck
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland that rests in your neck between your collarbone and your Adam’s apple. If you have an enlarged thyroid, otherwise known as a goiter, you may notice visible or notable swelling in your neck. If you’re concerned you may have an enlargement, you can do a thyroid self-exam using a mirror and a glass of water.
Changes in heart rate
If a thyroid is overactive, it pumps too much hormones into the bloodstream. Often, this will cause noticeable changes in your heart rate. Otherwise known as “hyperthyroidism,” an overactive thyroid may cause palpitations, atrial fibrillation, and a quick or quivering beat.
Noticeable increases in blood pressure
Along with heart irregularities, an increase in blood pressure is another common indicator that your body may be wrestling with a thyroid condition. Generally, this is caused by an excess in production of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism).
Notable changes in your energy or mood
If you’ve recently experienced drastic and consistent changes in your energy and mood, you may have a thyroid issue. Hypothyroidism makes individuals feel sluggish, chronically exhausted, foggy-headed, and even depressed. Its symptoms may also include anxiety, insomnia, and persistent or unpredictable irritability.
Dry skin and brittle nails
If your skin and nails are dry or brittle, it could be a result of aging, your climate, or an inadequate skincare routine. However, if the problem persists despite your best efforts, you may have a thyroid condition on your hands.
Numbness or tingling of hands
Unexplainable tingling or numbness in your hands or feet may be a sign of an underactive thyroid. According to Dr. Dorian Quinn, the condition is referred to as “peripheral neuropathy” and happens when your thyroid is producing an insufficient amount of hormones. If left untreated, the condition may lead to furthered nerve damage.
Changes in bowel habits
Alterations to your bowel movements is one of the most common signs of a thyroid condition. If you’re experiencing constipation, it may be due to hypothyroidism. Alternatively, if you’re having overly frequent bowel movements or diarrhea, you may have hyperthyroidism.
If you have a thyroid problem that’s gone untreated, hair loss may be an important sign of a prolonged problem. If left untreated, thyroid conditions can cause uniform thinning of hair. Generally speaking, regrowth happens when treatment begins.
Muscle weakness or trembling
Muscle trembling or pain may both be signs of thyroid disruptions. Trembling in the hands or weakness of the hips and shoulders especially are markers of a potential condition. Alternatively, slowing of reflexes may also be a muscular sign that your thyroid is suffering. In extreme cases, acute muscle breakdown may be life-threatening and should be investigated as soon as possible in order to expedite treatment.
Disruption of your menstrual cycle
If your regulated period has been replaced by an irregular menstrual cycle, a thyroid problem could be the culprit. Extremely light periods, abnormally heavy periods, or other irregularities may all be signs of thyroid-based issues. In severe cases, thyroid disease may even delay your period for several months or longer.
Dr. Dorian Quinn notes that the exhibition of any of these symptoms does not necessarily guarantee you have a thyroid problem. That said, noticeable or unexplained changes and/or a succession of listed symptoms are a strong indicator that it’s time to take action. The sooner you catch it, the better equipped medical professionals can be to treat it.