The thyroid gland, located in the neck, is one of the most important control centers in your body. Responsible for producing several specific hormones and controlling your metabolism, which in turn regulates many processes in your body, the thyroid is one of the epicenters of your health. However, thyroid problems are very common and can present with several different symptoms. At Innovative Medicine in Lafayette, IN, we can use blood tests to assess the function of your thyroid when you schedule an appointment.
What Are the Symptoms of Thyroid Problems?
Because the thyroid is in charge of your metabolic processes (or how much energy is given to cells throughout the body to perform certain tasks), the symptoms of thyroid problems are very diverse. Thyroid function issues can affect nearly every function of your body, from your reproductive hormones to your skin health to your mood and to basic homeostases, such as not feeling too cold or hot.
Importantly, thyroid issues can present in two different ways. Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid is overactive, meaning it produces a very high level of thyroid hormone that throws your body out of balance. Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid is underactive, which means the thyroid is underperforming in hormone production. Interestingly, the symptoms of each of these conditions can affect the same regions in the body, but in different ways.
Hypothyroidism slows down the metabolism, which slows down other processes in your body. When your thyroid hormone is too low, you will likely experience symptoms such as:
- Cold intolerance or feeling cold more easily
- Decreased sweating
- Weight gain
- Slower heart rate
- Muscle or joint pain
- Brittle nails
- Irregular or heavy menstrual cycles
Hyperthyroidism speeds up the metabolism, which can speed up certain processes in the body by producing too much thyroid hormone. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Heat intolerance or feeling hot more easily
- Increased sweating
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Muscle weakness
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Thick and flaking nails
- Racing heart
- Shorter and lighter menstrual cycles
Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism share a few of the same symptoms. For example, you may experience fatigue, insomnia, and hair loss as symptoms of either condition. The fact that these conditions share a few common symptoms is a reason why it’s important to see a physician sooner rather than later so you can learn which condition you have and undergo treatment to regulate your body.
Is One Thyroid Issue More Concerning?
Many patients wonder if hypothyroidism is worse than hyperthyroidism or vice versa. The fact of the matter is that both conditions are equally problematic. Just as you wouldn’t want to underperform, it’s also an issue to overperform since this places a different type of stress on the body. That said, hypothyroidism is a bit more common than hyperthyroidism.
How Is This Condition Diagnosed?
The most common way to diagnose a thyroid condition is with a blood test, specifically a TSH analysis. This blood test can be part of a comprehensive metabolic panel, or it can be done as a specific test to assess the function of certain hormones in your blood. TSH testing is the simplest test and it can be used to assess the levels of active thyroid hormones like T3.
When blood tests are analyzed, certain counts are compared to what the normal range would be for someone of your age and gender. Usually, being within the normal limits would suggest that your thyroid is producing an expected amount of certain hormones, while being above or below normal limits would suggest thyroid hormones are lower or higher than the average range.
Can You Have Normal Tests But Still Have Thyroid Issues?
Although the normal limit is the average scale most people with healthy thyroid function will fall under, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your thyroid levels are healthy or that your thyroid levels are at an optimal level. An average range is just that – an average for people who fall under the same general demographic as you. But because everybody is different and each body has a certain range that indicates optimal health, even the slightest imbalance in your thyroid level can lead to concerning symptoms.
This is why it’s also important for physicians to assess your symptoms and not rely solely on what blood analysis can tell them. Even if your thyroid test is within normal limits, if you are still having symptoms that are unexplained by other conditions (such as deficiencies or other hormonal imbalances), then thyroid treatment may be recommended to bring your thyroid function back into balance.
What Are Treatment Options?
The most common and effective way to treat thyroid conditions is to take a regular thyroid medication that will regulate the hormones produced by your thyroid. Thyroid hormone replacement can be done by either directly replacing the T3 hormone or by replacing the T4 hormone that converts into T3. Most treatments for thyroid conditions are considered long-term.
Rebalance Your Thyroid
Your thyroid is one of the most important control centers in your body that is responsible for regulating various bodily processes. Because thyroid problems are a body-wide concern, it’s important to seek treatment when you are experiencing any symptoms related to thyroid imbalance. Contact us at Innovative Medicine in Lafayette, IN to schedule your first appointment today.