Have you been feeling tired lately? Do you seem to have an extra chill in your bones that continues long after winter’s cold has passed? Or do you have the opposite problem – an unexplained racing heartbeat that comes and goes?

Don’t automatically chalk up your tired body, cold hands, generally bummed out soul to the lack of sunshine or a busy life. With January designated as Thyroid Awareness month, it’s a good idea to make sure yours isn’t causing you problems that can be treated. According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, 15 million Americans have undiagnosed thyroid problems.

How can you tell if your thyroid is out of whack? Thyroid problems are generally caused by hypothyroidism, in which your body produces too little thyroid hormone, or hyperthyroidism, in which your body produces too much thyroid hormone. Thyroid problems can make you feel either sluggish (hypothyroidism) or jittery (hyperthyroidism) and often mirror symptoms of other conditions like menopause, general stress, or even anemia. Lots of people assume their assorted symptoms are just part of the normal aging process, too.

Exactly what does this butterfly-shaped gland do? The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck and regulates the hormone that helps your entire body regulate and use energy. This endocrine gland impacts your body head to toe, so when your thyroid hormone numbers are off, you really feel it.

A simple blood test can check your thyroid levels to see if you are having any thyroid issues. Your TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and Free T4 levels will be measured and assessed to see if your levels are within range.

What are some of the symptoms of a thyroid disorder? According to the American Thyroid Association, not everyone experiences thyroid problems the same way. Use the following list as a guideline of any new symptoms you’ve been experiencing and bring it to the attentions of your physician.

Possible Hypothyroidism Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Forgetfulness
  • Weight gain
  • Dry skin
  • Lethargy and depression
  • Constipation 

Possible Hyperthyroid Symptoms

  • Feeling jittery
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Bulging eyes
  • Weight loss
  • An enlarged thyroid gland in the neck (goiter)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Irritability

Many factors can disrupt your thyroid including an autoimmune response, thyroid disease, or even medications. Some women find that pregnancy triggers thyroid problems.

Treatment for thyroid conditions can range from a simple daily dose of levothyroxine to replace any hormone your body is no longer producing to removal of the thyroid gland in some unusual cases of hyperthyroidism.

If you suspect your thyroid might be causing some of your unexplained symptoms, ask your physician to test your levels. If your thyroid is to blame, treatment will make you feel more like your old self very quickly. And spread the word – no one should suffer from an easily treated illness.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

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