We fill A LOT of prescriptions for thyroid medication in a given week. Synthetic, dessicated thyroid, you name it but there is still a lot of questions out there about the thyroid and signs and symptoms of when it is not working.
Let’s start with, what is my thyroid?
Your thyroid is shaped like a small butterfly, and is usually found inside the lower front of your neck. It’s a gland that controls your metabolism. It also releases hormones that direct many functions in your body, including how you use energy, how you produce heat, and how you consume oxygen
One can have an overactive thyroid (Hyperthyroidism) that can make you sweat more, feel hot, lose weight or your heart beat faster.
Or, one can have an underactive thyroid (Hypothyroidism) where you can feel cold, gain weight and have a slower heart beat.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto's disease. This is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the thyroid gland. The result is damage to the thyroid, preventing it from producing enough hormones. Hashimoto's disease tends to run in families. In some cases, hypothyroidism results from a problem with the pituitary gland, which is at the base of the brain. This gland produces thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which tells the thyroid to do its job. If your pituitary gland does not produce enough TSH, levels of thyroid hormones will fall. Other causes of hypothyroidism include temporary inflammation of the thyroid or medications that affect thyroid function.
The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves' disease. This is also an autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid gland and triggers the release of high levels of thyroid hormones. One of the hallmarks of Graves' disease is a visible and uncomfortable swelling behind the eyes. Hyperthyroidism can also result from thyroid nodules. These are lumps that develop inside the thyroid and sometimes begin producing thyroid hormones. Large lumps may create a noticeable goiter. Smaller lumps can be detected with ultrasound. A thyroid uptake and scan can tell if the lump is producing too much thyroid hormone.
Other Signs of Possible Changes In Your Thyroid
Foggy Brain : Your thyroid gland sends certain hormones to your brain to help it do all its many jobs. When hypothyroidism slows down the stream of those hormones, one side effect is "brain fog." You may find it hard to focus, remember things, or think clearly.
Mood Changes: Are you feeling sad and uneasy? There could be lots of reasons for it, but thyroid trouble is on the list. Depression is often the first sign of a thyroid problem. Anxiety is also linked to it. It's more common to feel depressed when you have hypothyroidism. Anxiety is common with hyperthyroidism.
Puffy Face: Does your face look doughy or swollen? It could be extra fluid your body is hanging onto because your thyroid isn't working right. You'll usually notice it most in your eyelids, lips, and tongue.
Blurry Vision: Sometimes a thyroid condition causes extra fluid to build up in tissues around your eyes. When that happens, it can make the muscles that control your eyes get bigger. You might find you have trouble focusing. You could also have double vision.
Swelling in the Neck: A swelling or enlargement in the neck is a visible clue that something may be wrong with the thyroid. A goiter may occur with either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Sometimes swelling in the neck can result from thyroid cancer or nodules, lumps that grow inside the thyroid. It can also be due to a cause unrelated to the thyroid.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Extra fluid shows up in other places in your body, too. The nerves that go to your hands travel through a tunnel of soft tissue near your wrist. When that tissue swells from too much fluid, it can put pressure on the nerves there. The numbness, tingling, and weakness that you get in your fingers is called carpal tunnel syndrome.
Food Tastes Different: You taste with both your mouth and your brain. When your thyroid isn't acting the way it should, it can mess with one or both of these parts of the taste process. That can make foods taste different to you.
Low Libido: When your thyroid slows down, so does your metabolism. Your metabolism controls organs in your body that put out sex hormones. When you're low on these hormones, your sex drive takes a hit.
Hair Loss: It's normal to lose some hair every day. But if you're starting to notice your scalp more or see changes in the overall thickness of your hair, your thyroid could be the reason. Usually this is a problem only for severe thyroid disorders that you've had for a long time.
High Blood Pressure: An underactive thyroid can cause your blood vessels to become less flexible, which makes it harder for your heart to move blood to all the parts of your body. An overactive thyroid can increase blood pressure and make your heart beat faster.
Other Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
- Dry skin and brittle nails
- Numbness or tingling in the hands
- Abnormal menstrual periods
Other Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
- Muscle weakness or trembling hands
- Irregular menstrual periods
Who Should Be Tested?
If you think you have symptoms of a thyroid problem, ask your doctor if you should be tested. People with symptoms or risk factors may need tests more often. Hypothyroidism more frequently affects women as they get older. Hyperthyroidism is also more common in women. A family history raises your risk of either disorder.
Diagnosing Thyroid Disorders
If your doctor suspects a thyroid disorder, a blood test can help provide an answer. This test measures the level of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), a kind of master hormone that regulates the work of the thyroid gland. If TSH is high, it typically means that your thyroid function is too low (hypothyroid). If TSH is low, then it generally means the thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroid.) Your doctor may also check levels of other thyroid hormones in your blood. In some cases, imaging studies are used and biopsies are taken to evaluate a thyroid abnormality.
If you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, your doctor will most likely prescribe thyroid hormones in the form of a pill. This usually leads to noticeable improvements within a couple of weeks. Long-term treatment can result in more energy, lower cholesterol levels, and gradual weight loss. Most people with hypothyroidism will need to take thyroid hormones for the rest of their lives.
The most common option in treating adults is radioactive iodine, which destroys the thyroid gland over the course of 6 to 18 weeks. Once the gland is destroyed, or removed by surgery, most patients must begin taking thyroid hormones in pill form. Another common treatment for hyperthyroidism is antithyroid medication, which aims to lower the amount of hormones produced by the thyroid. The condition may eventually go away, but many people need to remain on medication for the long term. Other drugs may be given to reduce symptoms such as rapid pulse and tremors.
If you have any questions regarding the Thyroid, the medications used and side effects contact one of our compounding pharmacists. They will be happy to help.