What Are the Symptoms of Thyroid Problems?

What Are the Symptoms of Thyroid Problems? | UPMC Italy

Are you asking yourself, “Do I have a thyroid problem?”

Symptoms of thyroid problems are often difficult to recognize because they are common in many other conditions.

If you suspect you have a thyroid problem, it may be time to talk to your doctor.

What Does the Thyroid Do?

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland found near the front of your neck. The thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system, and it produces important hormones that help regulate your whole body.

The thyroid gland affects energy levels, digestion, heart rate, and mood, among other things. Although the thyroid is involved in your overall health, its primary function is to control your metabolism. Not surprisingly then, one of the most common symptoms of impaired thyroid function is gaining or losing weight.

Symptoms of Thyroid Problems

A malfunctioning thyroid can disrupt many systems in your body. If your thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism), it produces too much thyroid hormone. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Excessive sweating or feeling hot
  • Change in energy level
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability or mood swings

If your thyroid is underactive (hypothyroidism), it produces too little thyroid hormone. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling cold
  • Weight gain
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Constipation
  • Depression

Since these symptoms also occur with many other conditions, a thyroid problem can be difficult to diagnose. It is not uncommon to have a thyroid disorder and not know it. An evaluation by an experienced endocrinologist can confirm the diagnosis.

Risks of Thyroid Disorders

There are certain risks related to an underactive or overactive thyroid.

Hypothyroidism can contribute to weight gain and metabolic complications such as high cholesterol, both of which can contribute to heart disease. It can also contribute to depression and fatigue.

Hyperthyroidism can cause heart problems such as a rapid heart rate, or arrhythmia. It can also contribute to thinning of the bones.

Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can increase the risk of birth defects or infertility in some women. Left untreated for a prolonged period of time, they also can be life threatening.

Other Thyroid Disorders and Associated Medical Conditions

The most common cause of thyroid disorders is autoimmune thyroid disease, which occurs when antibodies mistakenly attack the thyroid.

For example, in Graves’ hyperthyroidism, antibodies cause the thyroid gland to overproduce thyroid hormone. In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, antibodies decrease hormone production by slowly destroying the thyroid gland.

In addition, autoimmune thyroid disease can be associated with other autoimmune conditions such as celiac disease and type 1 diabetes.

Goiters and nodules also are associated with thyroid problems. A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland. Nodules, or small growths in the thyroid gland, are common and most often do not cause problems. In some cases, however, nodules may be associated with thyroid cancer or thyroid dysfunction. Early diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer is very effective.

Learn more about UPMC's endocrinology services and make an appointment with one of our specialists.