Informing & Supporting Thyroid Patients Since 1985


When Should You Suspect Your Thyroid?

Your thyroid gland tells every cell in your body the rate at which it should function. Having too little hormone, called hypothyroidism, puts you into a dragging slowdown. This is a problem for more than 10 million Americans-of whom 8 million don't know it. Having too much hormone, called hyperthyroidism, races your engine, so you feel all revved up-as if you were burning out. This problem affects some 4.5 million Americans, but at least 600,000 of them have yet to be diagnosed.

Feeling tired and chilly, having constipation or losing your hair, can mean your thyroid is underactive-but these could also come from overwork, or aging, or a dozen other causes. Feeling totally tense and overworked could mean an overactive thyroid-or just plain stress. That's why your doctor needs to do the proper blood tests to make sure.

Common problems with an underactive thyroid and too little thyroid hormone

  • feeling tired and listless
  • feeling chilly, especially when other people are comfortable
  • dry skin
  • hair loss
  • constipation
  • slow-growing and brittle fingernails
  • slow heart rate
  • leg cramps
  • sore muscles
  • depression
  • for women, heavier periods
  • for men, loss of interest in sex, erectile dysfunction
  • weight gain due to fluid retention, but usually no more than 3-4 pounds

If the above match how you feel, learn more about hypothyroidism.

Common problems with an overactive thyroid and too much thyroid hormone:

  • feeling too hot when others are comfortable
  • shakes and tremors of your hands
  • feeling nervous and irritable
  • sweating more than you used to
  • fingernails growing faster
  • muscle weakness, especially thighs and upper arms
  • faster heart rate, sometimes irregular rhythms and an erratic pulse
  • more frequent and looser bowel movements
  • for women, lighter periods, as well as difficulties in becoming pregnant or in carrying the child to term
  • for men, loss of interest in sex, erectile dysfunction
  • eyes that appear larger than normal

If the above match how you feel, learn more about hyperthyroidism.

Other thyroid problems

Other thyroid problems show up when the thyroid gland (at the lower front of your throat) swells or gets sore.

These may be a signals for other thyroid diseases:

  • an enlarging thyroid, called a goiter, is usually a sign that the gland is overworking but could be a failing thyroid trying to do better
  • lumps or nodules in the gland, found by you or your doctor, may contain cancer or be overproducing thyroid hormone
  • thyroiditis, soreness due to inflammation of all or part of the gland can change hormone levels causing either hyper- or hypothyroidism

Your risks are higher if...


If you think you have a thyroid problem, make an appointment to see your doctor who knows you and should be in the best position to decide if thyroid tests should be done. But if your doctor won't order thyroid tests and you still think you have a problem, you can call the Thyroid Foundation of America for more information or a referral to a thyroid specialist in your area. There is still a lot to be understood about the causes and effects of thyroid disease and much further research is needed.

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