It can be hard to tell if you have thyroid issues because many signs are similar to other conditions.
There are a number of conditions that can affect your thyroid and they produce different symptoms. Adding to the confusion is that many symptoms of thyroid issues can mimic other health problems. You also may not have any noticeable symptoms, especially at first. All of this makes it hard to know when something is wrong with this gland that plays a major role in your metabolism.
Thyroid conditions are relatively common, but they're also usually treatable. That's why it's helpful to know the signs indicating there may be something wrong with your thyroid. If you notice these symptoms, see a doctor. A simple blood test can measure your thyroid hormone levels, which is often the best indicator of whether or not you have a thyroid problem.
Here are two of the most common thyroid conditions—and possible signs that you may have them:
Also referred to as an underactive thyroid, this condition means your thyroid is not making enough hormones to meet your body's needs. It causes your metabolism to slow down and symptoms may include:
- Unexplained weight gain
- Sensitivity to cold
- Slow heart rate
- Depression or anxiety
- Muscle aches, weakness or stiffness
- Dry skin
- Thinning hair
- Irregular or heavy menstrual periods
When your thyroid secretes more hormones than it should, causing your metabolism to speed up, it is referred to as an overactive thyroid. Symptoms may include:
- Unexpected weight loss
- Sensitivity to heat
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat, palpitations
- Fatigue, difficulty sleeping
- Anxiety or irritability
- More frequent bowel movements
- Increased appetite
- Fine, brittle hair
- Changes in menstrual patterns
Other Thyroid Conditions
Two other conditions that may affect your thyroid are goiter and thyroid cancer.
A goiter is when your thyroid gland grows larger than it should be. This most commonly occurs when you don't get enough iodine in your diet, which is needed to make thyroid hormones. This doesn't happen often in the U.S. due to the use of iodized salt. Goiters may also be caused by changes in thyroid function or factors that affect thyroid growth. The only symptom of goiters is a swelling at the base of the neck.
A swelling or lump in your neck may also be a sign of thyroid cancer. Other symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, changes to your voice (hoarseness) or pain in your neck and throat. Thyroid cancer typically doesn't cause any symptoms early in the disease, however. If found early enough, most thyroid cancers can be cured.
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Date Last Reviewed: November 18, 2022
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD