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Signs of Hypothyroidism
An estimated 27 million Americans have thyroid disease, and more than half are undiagnosed. Frequently misunderstood, and too often overlooked and misdiagnosed, thyroid disease affects almost every aspect of health, so understanding more about the thyroid, and the symptoms that occur when something goes wrong with this small gland, can help you protect or regain good health.
Women are at the greatest risk, developing thyroid problems seven times more often than men. A woman faces as high as a one in five chance of developing thyroid problems during her lifetime, a risk that increases with age and for those with a family history of thyroid problems.
Causes of Thyroid Disease
What causes thyroid problems? There are a variety of factors that can contribute to the development of thyroid problems:
Exposure to radiation, such as occurred after the Chernobyl nuclear accident
Overconsumption of isoflavone-intensive soy products, such as soy protein, capsules, and powders
Some drugs, such as lithium and the heart drug cordarone, can cause hypothyroidism.
An overconsumption or shortage of iodine in the diet can also trigger some thyroid problems. (This also applies to iodine-containing supplements, such as kelp and bladderwrack.)
Radiation treatment to my head, neck or chest. Radiation treatment for tonsils, adenoids, lymph nodes, thymus gland problems, or acne
"Nasal Radium Therapy," which took place during the 1940s through 1960s, as a treatment for tonsillitis, colds and other ailments, or as a military submariner and/or pilot who had trouble with drastic changes in pressure
Overconsumption of uncooked "goitrogenic" foods, such as brussels sprouts, broccoli, rutabaga, turnips, kohlrabi, radishes, cauliflower, African cassava, millet, babassu, cabbage and kale
Surgical treatments for thyroid cancer, goiter, or nodules, in which all or part of the thyroid is removed, leave you hypothyroid
Radioactive iodine treatment (RAI) for Graves' disease and hyperthyroidism typically leave patients hypothyroid
You have a higher risk of developing thyroid disease if, among a variety of factors:
…You have a family member with a thyroid problem
…You have another pituitary or endocrine disease
…You or a family member have another autoimmune disease
…You've been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
…You've been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia
…You're over 60
…You've just had a baby
…You're near menopause or menopausal
…You're a smoker
…You've been exposed to radiation
…You've been treated with lithium
…You've been exposed to certain chemicals (i.e., perchlorate, fluoride)
In hypothyroidism, the thyroid is not producing enough thyroid hormone. This may be due to autoimmune disease that makes it underactive, radiation or drugs that has partially or fully disabled the thyroid, or surgical removal of all or part of the thyroid. When you are hypothyroid, your thyroid doesn't produce any or enough thyroid hormones, and the missing hormone is replaced by thyroid hormone replacement drugs.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, in which antibodies begin to attack the thyroid and gradually make it inactive. Treatment for hyperthyroidism also usually results in hypothyroidism. Radioactive Iodine (RAI) treatment, and surgical removal of the thyroid to treat an overactive thyroid usually ends up leaving a patient hypothyroid. Some people need to have the thyroid partially or fully removed -- known as thyroidectomy -- due to nodules/lumps in the thyroid. This can leave you hypothyroid. And the treatment for thyroid cancer is usually surgical removal of the thyroid. Bottom line: your thyroid doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone, or you don't have a thyroid at all -- and you are considered hypothyroid.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism depend on how hypothyroid you are, your age, your general level of health, and how hypothyroidism affects you uniquely. You may have some or all of the following symptoms, in varying severity:
You feel tired, exhausted, and like you can't get enough sleep, or want to take daytime naps
You feel depressed, down, or sad You've gained weight inappropriately, or you are finding it difficult to lose weight, despite proper diet and exercise
You feel cold when others do not, particularly in hands and feet
You're losing hair, particularly from the outer part of your eyebrow, or your hair is getting dry, or tangly
Your nails are breaking and splitting and become brittle
You have muscle and joint pains and aches, or you've been diagnosed with fibromyalgia
You've been diagnosed as having chronic fatigue syndrome
You have carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis in arms and legs
You have swelling and puffiness in the eyes, face, arms or legs
You have a low low sex drive
You have heart palpitations or a diagnosis of mitral valve prolapse
You're suffering from unexplained infertility, or have had recurrent miscarriages with no obvious explanation
You have had a heart attack or have clogged arteries
You have high cholesterol levels, particularly the type that is unresponsive to diet and medication
You have a heavier than normal menstrual period, or your period is longer than it used to be, or comes more frequently
You're going through menopause, and are having troublesome symptoms
You have worsening allergies, itching, prickly hot skin, rashes, hives, urticaria, chronic yeast infections, oral fungus or thrush, or stomach and abdominal bloating
You have anemia, or an excess of iron known as hemachromatosis
You find it difficult to concentrate, your memory is not as good as it should be, you feel like your thinking is "slow"
You are constipated, sometimes severely so
You have a feeling of fullness, or an obvious swelling in your neck area