Although it may not get as much attention as other parts of the body, your thyroid is a major player in your health. The thyroid is an endocrine gland located in the front of the neck. It produces thyroid hormones that regulate a variety of body functions including heart rate, body temperature and the release of energy to cells. The amount of hormones produced by the thyroid gland must be balanced for the body to operate properly.
One of the goals of National Thyroid Health Month in January is to help people recognize symptoms of thyroid imbalance so they can be addressed. When a thyroid produces too little hormone, it is known as hypothyroidism. When too much hormone is produced, it is known as hyperthyroidism. Women are five to eight times more likely to have thyroid problems than men. Imbalances can occur at any age but are more common in people over 60. Here are eight signs that might indicate your thyroid hormones are imbalanced. Some people experience several of these symptoms while others may experience just one or two.
Fluctuating pulse rate
Thyroid hormones help regulate your heart beat. If too little hormone is being produced, the pulse rate is abnormally low, which means the heart is beating too slowly. This slow heart rate can cause blood vessels to become stiff. If too much hormone is produced, the pulse rate is too high, which means the heart is pumping too fast. If left untreated, either condition can make existing heart problems more severe or lead to new heart issues.
Weight gain or loss
Unintentional weight gain or loss can be a sign of hormone imbalance. The amount of hormone being released can also affect appetite, which adds to a change in weight. Eating too much or too little can lead to many different nutritional health issues.
Changes in skin
If your skin becomes dry, cracked, pale and cool to the touch, it may be a sign of an underactive thyroid. In contrast, skin that is flushed or has rashes can be a sign of an overactive thyroid.
Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can bring on feelings of weakness and exhaustion. The feelings of weakness may occur when climbing stairs, trying to lift items or doing other simple tasks. Muscles may also feel tender and stiffer than normal.
Issues with eyes
Unusual dryness, altered vision or even double vision can occur when thyroid hormones are out of balance. In some cases, the eyes may bulge out.
Formation of a lump
When the thyroid is out of balance, it can swell and form a visible lump in the throat. This enlargement, known as a goiter, can sometimes be caused by other health issues as well.
Thyroid hormone imbalances can cause feelings of confusion, depression or irritability. In some cases, these emotions are incorrectly labeled as psychiatric issues when they are actually hormonal issues.
Problems with sleep
The thyroid controls body temperature, which plays an important role in getting proper sleep. Excess thyroid hormone can cause insomnia, while too little thyroid hormone can cause sleepiness as all times of the day. Since proper sleep is important for good health, both extremes can add to current health issues or create new ones.
Taking charge of your own health
These eight symptoms can also be signs of other health issues as well as thyroid issues. Talking about these or other unusual changes in your health with your doctor is important for an accurate diagnosis. Forming a partnership with your doctor is the best way to stay healthy. Getting screened for thyroid imbalance can reveal problems that can be addressed for a better quality of life.
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